Did you know that every day, approximately 10 Malaysians die of lung cancer?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), lung cancer was responsible for the highest number of cancer deaths in 2018, i.e. 1.8 million deaths or 18.4% of the total number of deaths.
Unfortunately, patients have reportedly delayed getting diagnosed and treated due to the stigma attached to this disease.
In an effort to stop such stigma, it’s crucial to first fix common misconceptions about the disease.
Myth 1: Only smokers succumb to lung cancer
While a majority of people who have had lung cancer are smokers (or were at some point in their lives), as much as one-fifth of those who died of lung cancer never smoked or used any form of tobacco before.
However, it is important to note that people who smoke are up to 30 times more likely to get lung cancer or die from it than people who do not smoke.
Those who quit smoking have a lower risk of getting lung cancer than if they continue to smoke, but their risk is still higher than the risk for those who have never smoked before.
Quitting smoking at any age can lower the risk of developing lung cancer.
Myth 2: Non-smokers will never develop lung cancer
Smoke from other people’s cigarettes, also called secondhand smoke, has been proven to cause lung cancer.
When a person breathes in secondhand smoke, the effects are similar to those who actually smoke.
While tobacco is by far the leading risk factor for lung cancer, it is not the only one.
Exposure to radon, radiation and other industrial substances, especially over a long period of time, are also risk factors for lung cancer.
Myth 3: People without symptoms don’t have to worry about lung cancer
Lung cancer symptoms differ from one person to another.
However, the signs and symptoms of lung cancer can take years to develop and may not appear until the disease is already at an advanced stage and more difficult to treat successfully.
Sometimes, the symptoms can be similar to those of other medical conditions like pneumonia, allergies or a cold.
This may cause a misdiagnosis and/or a delay in their diagnosis.
So, if you notice any suspicious symptoms, it’s best to see your doctor right away.
Lung cancer symptoms may include:
• Chest pain
• Weight loss with no known cause
• Coughing that gets worse or doesn’t go away
• Shortness of breath
• Coughing up blood
• Feeling very tired all the time
Myth 4: There is no hope for lung cancer patients
While it is common for most lung cancer cases to be discovered only in the advanced stages, there are still treatment options that can make symptoms easier to manage.
Besides chemotherapy, new advances in lung cancer treatments such as targeted therapy and immunotherapy – either alone or in combination with other treatments – have shown improved survival benefits.