Lifestyle

Five myths about lung cancer that you should no longer believe

November marks Lung Cancer Awareness Month – a disease that most of us think we know the main causes and symptoms of.

However, there are still misconceptions about lung cancer – it's not necessarily just a case of being a "smoker's" disease.

Here are some myths that should be eliminated about this disease.

Myth 1: Lung cancer only affects older people

According to pulmonologist John Costello, “lung cancer is significantly more common in older people – the average age of diagnosis is 70 years. However, this may only reflect longer exposure to tobacco."

This does not mean that you will get this disease when you are old. According to Lisa Jacques, a cancer nurse specialist, "many people develop lung cancer in their 60s or 70s after many years of smoking, but occasionally people get lung cancer in a much younger age, even in their 20s or 30s," wrote The Independent.

Myth 2: Lung cancer is always caused by smoking

Although smoking increases the chances of developing lung cancer, it is not the only cause.

"Smoking is the cause of most cases of lung cancer and the biggest risk factor, but about 10% of people who have lung cancer have never smoked," explained Jacques.

Costello added: "There are some cases of lung cancer that are genetic and may not be related to smoking, and some are caused by exposure to substances such as asbestos, radon gas and second-hand smoke."

Myth 3: You can't recover from lung damage from smoking

"Some of the damage caused by smoking can be reversed in healthy lungs, but emphysema is architectural destruction of the lungs that causes extreme shortness of breath and cannot be reversed," Costello said.

So, quitting smoking can reduce your risk – but not drinking at all is much better.

Myth 4: Lung cancer is always fatal

A diagnosis of lung cancer does not mean certain death, but it is still serious.

"Lung cancer has a 60% five-year survival rate in people with localized disease," Costello said. "If it has spread around the body at the time of diagnosis, the survival rate is only 8%."

But he added that there are "new techniques in screening for lung cancer, such as CT scans in smokers over 50 with a heavy smoking background".

So, if you have concerns about a persistent cough, see a doctor and get checked as soon as possible.

Myth 5: Women don't need to worry about lung cancer as much as other types

According to Cancer Research Britain, men are more likely to get the cancer than women (52% of lung cancer cases are men, compared to 48% women). However, women should still be aware of lung cancer.

"Lung cancer has been a growing problem for women since they caught up with men in terms of smoking habits, so they are at risk if they smoke," Costello said.

Jacques added: "It is the third most common type of cancer in Britain, and in women it is the second most common type of cancer."

So whether you're a smoker or not, watch for lung cancer symptoms — such as a cough that lasts more than two or three weeks, chest infections, shortness of breath and pain when you breathe — and see your doctor if you have any of these concerns.