Lung Cancer can occur in Non-Smokers, too!

Lung Cancer can occur in Non-Smokers, too!

Cancer News

Lung cancer is among the common cancers detected across the world, caused by harmful cells in our lungs growing unchecked. It is crucial to know that this type of cancer is life-threatening and can happen to non-smokers, too.

According to doctors, smoking and tobacco use are among the main factors that can increase the risk of this deadly disease. Cigarettes, cigars, or pipes account for 80 percent of lung cancer-related deaths.

However, despite that, many non-smokers are also diagnosed with lung cancer. Symptoms of the life-threatening disease in those who have never puffed a cigarette are similar to those of smokers.

Most non-smokers with cancer are diagnosed with a non-small cell type known as adenocarcinoma – which often originates in the outer region of the lungs, like the mucus-producing cells that line the small airways called bronchioles.

Signs and symptoms of lung cancer in non-smokers

A few signs of lung cancer that you may notice are:

  • A cough that does not go away or gets worse over time

  • Coughing up blood

  • Extreme chest pain

  • Discomfort

  • Trouble breathing or breathlessness

  • Wheezing

  • Hoarseness

  • Loss of appetite

  • Weight loss

  • Fatigue and tiredness

  • Trouble swallowing

  • Swelling in the face

  • Recurrent lung infections

  • Shoulder pain

  • Drooping eyelid in one eye

What causes lung cancer? 

Lung cancer is generally caused by cells that keep dividing even though they should not. All cells have a built-in off switch that helps them prevent dividing into more cells or causes them to die off.

The off switch is usually triggered when a cell has divided too many times or has too many mutations. Cancer cells keep multiplying unchecked and interfere with normal cells. They get into the bloodstream or lymph nodes and move to other places in the body, spreading the damage.

Risk factors

Apart from exposure to tobacco, a few other risk factors for lung cancer include:

  • Having a family history of lung cancer

  • Being exposed to harmful substances like radon, air pollution, asbestos, uranium, diesel exhaust, silica, coal products, and others

  • Having previous radiation treatments to your chest

  • Aging is another driver, as this cancer is more common in older people, with more than four in 10 people diagnosed with lung cancer being 75 years and over.

  • Air pollution can also increase your risk, as research has shown that pollution is a driving factor behind lung cancer cases. The risk is linked to air quality and how much pollution a person is exposed to, but for most people, the risk is very small.

How is lung cancer diagnosed?

A few tests that your doctor would recommend performing include:

Blood tests: Blood tests cannot diagnose cancer, but they can help individual assess how are the organs and other parts of the body functioning.

Imaging: Chest X-rays and CT scans give your provider images that can show lung changes. PET/CT scans are usually done to evaluate a concerning finding on a CT scan or after a cancer diagnosis to determine whether cancer has spread.

Biopsy: Another way to find out about health is to have a tissue or fluid biopsy. This sample is studied under a microscope to screen for cancer cells and determine the kind of cancer it is.

Preventive measures

Here are few preventive measures that one can take to reduce the risk of lung cancer.

  • Avoid or limit exposure to cancer-causing agents

  • Avoid radon exposure

  • A healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables may help reduce risk of lung cancer. 

  • Be physically active and practise deep breathing

  • Lower exposure to workplace risk factors

  • Cancer Screening in case of family history