Lung cancer warning for women

Lung cancer has overtaken breast cancer to become the most common cause of cancer death among women in the UK, according to new research.

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Lung cancer symptoms

The symptoms of lung cancer may include;

  • Having a cough most of the time
  • A change in a cough you have had for a long time
  • Being short of breath
  • Coughing up phlegm (sputum) with signs of blood in it
  • An ache or pain when breathing or coughing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Losing weight
  • Having a chest infection that doesn't go away with treatment

Other less common symptoms of lung cancer are usually associated with more advanced lung cancer. They include;

  • A hoarse voice
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Changes in the shape of your fingers and nails called finger clubbing
  • Swelling of the face caused by a blockage of a main blood vessel (superior vena cava obstruction)
  • Swelling in the neck caused by enlarged lymph nodes
  • A constant ache or pain in your chest or shoulder that has lasted some time
  • Pain or discomfort under your ribs on your right side (from cancer cells in the liver)
  • Shortness of breath caused by fluid around the lungs (called pleural effusion)

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Lung cancer facts and figures

  • Only one in 10 people know that a persistent cough for three weeks or more could be a symptom of lung cancer.
  • If caught early enough, lung cancer can be cured, with five-year survival rate being 80 per cent. If allowed to spread, that figure drops to 7 per cent.
  • Around 41,000 people are diagnosed with lung cancer each year (23,000 men and 18,000 women).
  • It kills almost 35,000 people each year- that is 96 people every day or one person every 15 minutes.
  • The death toll from lung cancer is more than breast cancer, prostate cancer, bladder cancer and leukaemia combined.
  • UK survival rates lag significantly behind UK other comparable EU countries - as well as Sweden, Denmark, Norway Australia and Canada

Types of lung cancer

There are two main types of primary lung cancer, which behave and respond to treatment quite differently. They are:

  • Small cell lung cancer is usually caused by smoking and it’s rare for someone who has never smoked to develop this type of lung cancer.
  • Small cell lung cancer is often fast-growing and can spread quite quickly.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma: This type of lung cancer is often caused by smoking.
  • Adenocarcinoma: This develops from the cells that produce phlegm in the lining of the airways.
  • Large cell carcinoma: This gets its name from the large, rounded cells that are seen when they are examined under a microscope.

Smoking and lung cancer

In most people, lung cancer is related to cigarette smoking. Although some people who have never smoked get lung cancer, smoking causes more than 8 out of 10 cases (83%).

Here are some facts about smoking and lung cancer

  • The more you smoke, the more likely you are to get lung cancer but it is the length of time you have been a smoker that is most important.
  • Starting smoking at a young age greatly increases the risk.
  • Filtered and low tar cigarettes might not increase your risk quite so much, but most smokers cancel this out by taking more, deeper puffs or smoking more cigarettes.
  • As soon as you stop smoking, your risk of lung cancer starts to go down.
  • Passive smoking (breathing in other people's cigarette smoke) increases the risk of lung cancer, but it is still much less than if you smoke yourself.

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