"Please tell him," I nudged.
Mother had been coughing for months now. At first, we thought it was the cold and old age but after they became racking with marked weakness and lots of pain, I called my siblings and we took her to see the family doctor. She had some scans done and was referred to a teaching hospital. The doctor there asked us many different questions which my mother answered. She was responding well until he asked about smoking. She didn't want to tell the doctor the full story. So I took over.
"The thing my mother is trying to hide is that for the thirty years she was married to my father, he smoked lots of cigarettes daily. In the living room, bathroom, bedroom and in the car. The only place safe was the kitchen because he would never step inside."
She knew it was unhealthy but all her pleas fell on his deaf ears. She spent a lot of time with him and after a while it was evident to us the children that she was a smoker too, in a manner of speaking. ,He died five years ago, in a car crash. He was as fit as a fiddle up until that dark Monday morning.
We had more tests done and then came the diagnosis I had suspected but half hoped wasn't true. Mother had lung cancer. I never understood why she, a 'non-smoker' had to suffer this while my dad got off the hook for the consequences of his habits. It was a difficult place for a child to be in.
After long gruelling treatment of surgery and chemotherapy, Mother pulled through albeit frailer than ever. It was nothing short of a miracle and we were grateful for the remaining years she got to spend with her children and grandchildren.
Lung cancer kills more men and women combined than any other type of cancer. The biggest associated risk factor is smoking. Even though this habit has been linked to other cancers and diseases, its role in lung cancer remains a significant one However, some people may get lung cancer without having ever smoked or had prolonged exposure to second-hand smoke. Other risk factors are a family history of lung cancer and exposure to harmful particles such as asbestos.
Persistent cough which may produce small amounts of blood, weakness, pain in the bones, breathing difficulty and unintentional weight loss are among the symptoms of lung cancer. More complications may be present if cancer spreads to other parts of the body.
A doctor takes this clinical history, conducts a physical examination and s for tests like X-rays, CT scans, and lung biopsy where a sample of the lung tissue is obtained and sent to the laboratory for analysis to confirm cancerous cells. All of this informs the diagnosis. A combined team of oncologists, chest surgeons, physiotherapists, and other speciality depending on the stage of the disease, and complications are involved in managing this disease.
The survival rate varies and depends on many factors such as the stage at which the cancer was detected, individual and the type of cancer.
While medicine seeks more effective treatments, it is crucial to learn and practice strategies that can help avoid this disease. Here are five ways to do so.
Cigarettes contain many different substances that cause great damage to the lungs and lead to lung cancer. Stopping this habit even after indulging in it for years decreases the risk by a wide margin. Your doctor can help you with this by counselling and medications.
Avoid Second-hand Smoke
Avoiding cigarette smoke applies to those who spend time around people who smoke. As we saw in the story above, prolonged exposure to second-hand smoke can be just as dangerous. You can help smokers you know to get help with quitting as the habit affects everyone especially when it is done in enclosed spaces. Ever noticed non-smoking signs in public places? This is put in place to discourage this habit and keep us all safe.
Stay Safe At Work
If you work in construction and similar fields, you are exposed to harmful chemicals. Your boss is not being obnoxious when they insist on compliance. They are looking out for you. Using appropriate face masks and other safety equipment at work will protect you from inhaling these cancer-causing substances.
Eat Right and be Fit
Having different fruits and vegetables protects your body from succumbing to diseases such as cancer. They are the best source of vitamins and minerals your body needs to stand guard against disease. Are you fond of sweet treats and fried snacks which you munch regularly? Your lungs and entire body would be happier if you cut back on them. Don?t forget alcohol and red meat are both risk factors for cancers. Consider minimising them in your intake. More water, fish, seafood and smoothies are part of what keeps you safe from cancer. Finally, including exercise into your daily routine is ensures you stay in top form. Lying around on the couch and spending long hours in one spot at work are both bad for you.
Gaining adequate knowledge about this disease and sharing it with others would ensure a better-informed society and spur action at individual and collective levels to minimize the risk of getting lung cancer. You can start by sharing this article with as many people as you can.