Cigarette smoking is the major cause of preventable ill-health and premature death in Northern Ireland, killing around 2,300 people each year. Of these deaths approximately 800 are as a result of lung cancer, which is now the most common cause of cancer death for both men and women.
Lung cancer awareness month runs from 1 November to 30 November. With this in mind, the Public Health Agency (PHA) is encouraging all smokers thinking about quitting, to take the appropriate steps to quit today.
Smoking cigarettes is the single biggest risk factor for lung cancer. If you smoke just one cigarette a day, you are three times more likely to get lung cancer than a non-smoker. If you are a heavy smoker consuming more than 20 cigarettes a day, you are 20 times more likely to get lung cancer than a non-smoker. Pipe tobacco and chewing tobacco can also increase your risk of developing lung cancer.
Even if you do not smoke, frequent exposure to other people’s tobacco smoke (passive smoking) can increase your risk of developing lung cancer.
If someone stops smoking, their risk of developing lung cancer falls. After about 15 years, their chance of developing the disease is similar to that of a non-smoker.
Lung cancer symptoms may include:
- a persistent cough
- a sudden change in a cough that you have had for a long time
- unexplained weight loss
- chest pain - this is usually intermittent (stop-start) and is often made worse when breathing or coughing
- coughing up blood-stained phlegm.
Gerry Bleakney, Head of Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement, PHA, said: “Smoking dramatically increases an individual’s risk of developing lung cancer. Tobacco-related cancers such as lung cancer have a low rate of survival; it is for this reason that stopping smoking is so important.
“Early diagnosis of lung cancer and being aware of the signs is crucial to saving lives, smokers should be aware of the symptoms of lung cancer and if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you really should see your GP.”
Gerry Bleakney continued: “It is never too late to stop smoking, but the earlier you stop, the better. As soon as you stop, the risk of serious diseases starts to decrease. For information on stop smoking services phone the Smokers’ Helpline on 0808 812 8008 or go to www.want2stop.info”
Contact the PHA Press Office on 028 9031 1611.