November has been named Lung Cancer Awareness Month in an effort to increase awareness of the deadliest type of cancer. While this type of cancer takes about 1.69 million lives per year, a survey of 10,000 individuals revealed that most knew next nothing about lung cancer and highlighted significant knowledge gaps of early symptoms and risk factors.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer in both men and women, as it represents 27 percent of all cancer deaths and has the lowest five-year survival rate, especially if detected at an advanced stage. Moreover, lung cancer kills more people per year than breast, colon and prostate cancer combined but experts warn that investment in lung cancer research is much smaller than of these other cancer types, calling it “the most underfunded cancer.”
Every year, Mexico faces 9,000 new diagnoses of lung cancer, of which 85 percent are related to tobacco consumption, and this number is expected to keep growing. This disease takes 8,000 lives a year in Mexico and over the past 10 years lung cancer diagnoses increased by 30 percent. Mexicans diagnosed with lung cancer find an additional hurdle as the disease is not covered by Seguro Popular, the country’s largest healthcare service. For that reason, early screening and identification of risk factors are heavily recommended.
Current standards recommend that those over 55 years of age with a history of heavy smoking get screened. Risk factors include smoking and exposure to radon gas, second hand smoke, asbestos, air pollution, radiation and diesel exhaust, among other chemicals. However, 15 percent of lung cancer patients have never smoked so specialists recommend a doctor’s visit if anyone experiences symptoms corresponding with the BREATHE mnemonic:
- Blood when coughing
- Recurring respiratory infections
- Enduring cough
- Aches in the shoulders, back or chest
- Trouble breathing