How smoking increases your risk of lung cancer

Haruna, 45, grew up in a neighbourhood where smoking is a common practice for men. He said he never made any effort to quit smoking till 2013 when he lost his father and a close friend to lung cancer.

He added that quitting was not easy for him but he struggled through to ensure that he didn’t worsen the respiratory problems he already had or increase his risk of lung cancer.

Angela, 32, was shocked when she was diagnosed as having lung cancer last year because she doesn’t smoke. However, she recalls working at a restaurant that had a bar where people smoked cigarettes and other tobacco products some years back. She also had a fiancé at a time who was a heavy smoker.

Smoking cigarette is a common habit among the populace and these days, a favourite past time for teenagers and even children.

The habit is the leading cause of lung cancer, according to medical experts.

According to the Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, over 20 billion sticks of cigarettes are consumed annually in Nigeria and 5.6% of adults, that is 4.5 million people, currently use tobacco products.

Quoting statistics from the Nigeria Global Adult Tobacco Survey, he said about 82% of the country’s population are exposed to second-hand smoke when visiting bars/nightclubs and 29.3%, about 6.4 million when visiting restaurants.

Recent studies among University of Abuja undergraduates reveal that 33.3% of the students are current smokers, he added.

The latest global cancer data released by the World Health Organization (WHO) in September said lung cancer is also responsible for the largest number of deaths; 1.8 million deaths, 18.4% of the total, because of the poor prognosis for cancer worldwide.

Dr Ndubuisi  Anumenechi, a   consultant cardiothoracic surgeon, in an interview with Daily Trust said while there are other causes of lung cancer, cigarette smoking is the major cause of the disease.

According to him, if cigarette smoking is banned and no one smokes cigarette any more, lung cancer will be reduced by 90%.

He said cancer occurs when the cells of the body start growing out of control. The cells grow fast and abnormally, and by so doing disturb the function of the other organs in the body, he said.

The consultant cardiothoracic surgeon said cancer of the lungs refers to cancer that starts inside the lungs, adding that cancer could also spread from other parts of the body into the lungs.

He said coughing or coughing with blood is usually the first symptom of lung cancer.  Other symptoms include chest pain, fever, changes in the skin, voice, and power of the muscles, among others

Dr Anumenechi said some people notice convulsion as the first symptom, while others may not have any symptom at all when they have lung cancer.

He said the last category of persons may only discover that they have lung cancer if for instance they are asked to do a health check as part of the requirements for a job, and go for an X-ray which then reveals an abnormality on their chest. He added that subsequent tests may then reveal lung cancer.

“People who smoke cigarettes are 15 to 30 times more likely to get lung cancer or die from lung cancer than people who do not smoke,” says the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “Even smoking a few cigarettes a day or smoking occasionally increases the risk of lung cancer. The more years a person smokes and the more cigarettes smoked each day, the more the risk goes up.”

The organization said people who quit smoking have a lower risk of lung cancer than if they had continued to smoke.

Dr Anumenechi said cigarette and other tobacco products contain carcinogens, that is chemicals that can irritate the cell and make it start growing uncontrollably.

“The carcinogens are in the smoke and the person smoking is dragging it into his or her lungs. Because of the addition of nicotine in the cigarette, they also find it difficult to stop. Smoking is also related to cancer in other parts of the body like oesophagal cancer, and stomach cancer, among others, he said.”

He said there are different types of lung cancers and there are those that occur in people that don’t smoke, however, the vast majority of cases occur in people that smoke.

The cardiothoracic surgeon said there are primary smokers and secondary or passive smokers. Primary smokers are people who smoke while the secondary or passive smokers don’t smoke but stay around people that smoke.

He gave examples of secondary or passive smokers as: “if you have a husband that smokes, you stay in the same house and drive in the same car, for instance, or the spouse smokes when the children are there. Also, someone who goes to a nightclub doesn’t smoke but everywhere is filled with cigarette smoke in an enclosed place, and he or she keeps inhaling.”

He said not smoking or quitting smoking is a way to prevent lung cancer.

The physician also said other ways include living a healthy lifestyle, “eat healthy food, exercise, breathe fresh air and if possible do a chest X-ray from time to time because if the cancer is picked up early, that is in stage I, it may be cured. But from stage II above it becomes difficult to cure.”

On treatment, he said surgery may be performed on the lungs “the lungs have what we call lobes, on the right, there are three lobes and on the left, there are two. So we can remove one of the lobes or we can remove a whole lung on one side. There are some people going around with one lobe today. But before we do that operation there are some tests we do to be sure that the person can survive on one lung. If the person cannot survive on one lung we will not go ahead to do the operation.”

Other treatments include radiation and chemotherapy, he said.



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