In this month’s let’s talk health series we’re looking to raise awareness of lung cancer, the third most common cancer in the UK.  In looking to Cancer Research UK we provide some key statistics on the condition, the symptoms and cause of lung cancer and what you can do to reduce your risks; a proactive approach is possible.


  • There’s approximately 130 new diagnoses of lung cancer every day in the UK
  • It is the 3rd most common cancer following breast and prostate cancer
  • 44% of those diagnosed are 75+
  • Smoking can be linked to 86% of people diagnosed with lung cancer
  • Just 5% survive lung cancer for 10 or more years.
  • 89% are preventable cases

Lung cancer by definition is the cancerous disease of the wind pipe, main airways (including nose and mouth) or lung tissue. The respiratory system is quite complex. The air we breathe in is broken down into oxygen and poisonous carbon dioxide; the lungs break this down so that we’re able to harvest the oxygen and pump this around the body whilst dispelling carbon dioxide when we breathe out. Because of the complexity of the system, it’s important to have any changes reviewed with a medical practitioner to help prevent or overcome difficulties experienced and this isn’t just about cancer; it could be indicative of carbon dioxide toxicity (where too much carbon dioxide builds up leading to poisoning), asthma, fluid build-up, pulmonary embolism or some other lung disease.

What causes it?

Aside from genetic tendencies such as history of lung cancer and diseases such as tuberculosis, lung cancer can be attributed to circumstances within our control. As highlighted above, a significant 86% of lung cancer patients can be linked to smoking, including passive smoking (breathing in others smoke). Affirming what we already know about this life altering habit; there is a significant likelihood that you’ll develop some form of cancer or disease from smoking. In addition, other risk factors in lung cancer are exposure to radon gas and exposure to certain chemicals in the workplace, i.e. asbestos.

The startling smoking stat should be encouraging enough for you to kick the habit. As for the links of chemicals and gas, if you’re concerned, ensure you talk to your line manager about the health and safety instructions in place and if you’re concerned they’re not being followed, ensure you follow this up with top line managers. There are strict protocols in place to protect employee’s exposure to hazardous materials but sometimes, even in smaller companies, these procedures can slip so it’s essential that you take a proactive approach to your health and safety.   You can find out more about the specifics of these risk factors through the Cancer Research website.

When should you seek medical attention?

As touched on, the respiratory system is really complex and systems that are linked to cancer could be indicative of something else. Regardless any changes that are persistent should be reviewed with your doctor; even if you think or are sure it’s nothing, it’s important to get it checked out.

  • A persistent cough that just won’t go away
  • A change in your cough- it becomes more painful, sounds different or you’re bringing up coloured mucus or phlegm
  • Shortness of breath- if things are seemingly more difficult than they were, that is a cause to get checked out.
  • Coughing up blood- even if just a small amount; specks or covered phlegm- don’t put it down to having a cold.
  • A pain in your chest or shoulder- could be a dull ache or sharp pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Losing weight
  • Feeling very tired- a lot of the time
  • On-going infections- raise your concerns with your doctor.

These are some of the more common symptoms but there are others that are related to hormone changes and particular experiences of pain.  Be mindful and read up about this on the Cancer Research site under symptoms to get clued up.

Prevention methods

We’ve already talked about a proactive approach to reducing your risk to developing lung cancer but there are other things you can do to further reduce your risks and improve your overall health:

  • Enjoy a healthy, balanced diet
  • Drink less alcohol
  • Exercise more
  • Protect yourself from the sun
  • Discuss your family’s health history so you’re up to date on your personal risk. Because someone in your family has had lung cancer, it doesn’t mean you’ll have it too but your risk of having cancer at some point in your life is increased. It’s important to mindful of your family history so you can be more in tune with your body’s changes.

About Cancer Research UK

Cancer Research UK is the world’s leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research – our vision is to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured.

Their pioneering work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has helped save millions of lives. They’ve been at the heart of the progress that has already seen survival in the UK double in the last forty years. They support research into all aspects of cancer through the work of over 4,000 scientists, doctors and nurses.

Today, 2 in 4 people survive their cancer for at least 10 years. Cancer Research UK’s ambition is to accelerate progress so that by 2034, 3 in 4 people will survive their cancer for at least 10 years. They receive no government funding for our life-saving research – every step made towards beating cancer relies on every pound donated.

For further information about Cancer Research UK’s work or to find out how to support the charity, please call 0300 123 1022 or visit Follow them on Twitter and Facebook

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