What is Lung Cancer

With the lungs being a vital part of the respiratory system, it is essential to take good care of the organs. However, sometimes, unforeseen complications such as cancer can occur. The condition is brought about due to the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in one or both lungs. This can form tumours which can adversely affect lung function.

Here in Singapore, between 2013 to 2017, lung cancer diagnoses were prevalent among both men and women, with 14.5% and 7.6% of all cancer diagnoses respectively.

This disease is the leading cause of cancer deaths in Singapore, with 26.6% for men and 16.1% for women.

Types of Lung Cancer

There are two main types of lung cancer:

  • Non-small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC)
  • Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC)

Most lung cancer cases will fall under NSCLC which is the less aggressive type. NSCLC includes cancers such as squamous cell carcinomas, large cell carcinomas and adenocarcinomas.

As for SCLC, it is less common but extremely aggressive and can quickly spread to other parts of the body through the bloodstream. Small Cell Lung Cancer is also commonly associated with smoking.

Both cancers can spread to the lymph glands near the airways, the opposite lung, bones, the brain, and even the liver.

Smoking and Lung Cancer

How Does Smoking Cause Cancer

There has long been an association between smoking and lung cancer. As smoking contains more than 5,000 chemical substances, each puff exposes your body’s tissues to such pollutants. Extended exposure to such substances can cause the DNA in our cells to mutate, which can lead to cancer.

While the body can do its best to ward off the negative effects, the arsenic and nickel found in cigarettes can reduce the effectiveness. This pair of chemicals makes it difficult for our body to repair the DNA of affected cells.

Other Forms of Cancer That May Be Caused by Smoking

Other than lung cancer, prolonged smoking can also potentially lead to the following cancers:

  • Mouth cancer
  • Throat cancer
  • Oesophagus cancer
  • Stomach cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Rectum cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Laryngeal (voice box) cancer
  • Trachea cancer
  • Bronchus cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Renal pelvic cancer
  • Urinary bladder cancer
  • Cervical cancer
  • Acute myeloid leukaemia (a type of blood cancer)

Putting an End To Smoking

The Importance of Quitting Smoking

Aside from the growing cancer risks, it is a good move to quit smoking so that one’s body can recover from the effects of the chemicals and substances. In fact, 10 years after a smoker’s final cigarette,  the body restores its ability to repair cell DNA which will reduce the chances of developing fatal lung cancer by 50%.

Considering the large amount of time needed for recovery, it is advisable to start as early as possible.

Why Is It Hard To Quit Smoking?

Based on findings by the World Health Organisation (WHO), there are often challenges facing smokers who are trying to quit:

  • Addiction and dependence on nicotine

Nicotine addiction is a severe impediment to quitting. This substance can stimulate the release of the dopamine neurotransmitter, which is how we feel the sensation of pleasure. If you are constantly on a dopamine high due to smoking, you would most certainly want to maintain that high.

This can cause your body to get used to the artificially high levels of dopamine, which requires constant and increased consumption of cigarettes. Anytime you try to quit, the sudden drop in dopamine can cause conditions such as anxiety and even depression.

  • Social and behavioural significance of nicotine

Smoking can inadvertently become part of your daily routine, and can even play a part in your social interactions. Smoking with friends, while drinking, or even when having a meal, all of these behaviours can become intertwined with smoking, which makes it even harder to quit.

  • Use of smoking as a coping mechanism

There can also be emotional significance to smoking, where smoking helps users to regulate their emotions such as anger, sadness, happiness, and more. This can be a difficult arrangement to untangle, and may require smokers to sort out their psychological well-being before being able to quit.

What Are Some of the Steps You Can Take?

It can be a tough journey trying to kick the habit, but you are most certainly not alone. There is always help in the form of healthcare professionals and support groups.

If you are trying to quit on your own, you can consider the following options:

Keep yourself accountable by signing up for the I Quit 28-Day Countdown with HPB. Daily text messages will provide tips to help you along the way, and you will also have access to professional support together with peers also trying to quit. Should you finish your pledge, there are HPB e-vouchers as incentives.

  • Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)

For NRT, there are various forms, such as gum, skin patches, lozenges, or even inhalers. By providing your body with some amount of nicotine, you can slowly wean yourself off smoking entirely, without the harmful effects of other foreign substances.

Most, if not all, pharmacies in Singapore carry NRT products, and you can start your commitment to quitting smoking without a prescription.

If doing it yourself is not what you need, consider smoking cessation programmes to give you more of a hand. These special programmes are conducted at polyclinics and hospitals around Singapore:

  • Alexandra Hospital
  • Health Promotion Board
  • Child Guidance Clinic
  • Institute of Mental Health
  • Singapore General Hospital
  • Tan Tock Seng Hospital
  • National Healthcare Group Polyclinics

Included in the programme are personal counselling sessions, regular check-ins, and access to educational materials as well as prescription medications.

Start Your Journey to Better Health Today

Stopping lung cancer is not exactly an impossible task. For smokers, the first step is to quit smoking. We know that it is an arduous task but the sooner you start, the likelier you are to kick the habit.

Understand the condition, the causes, and the help available to you. After that, all you need to do is take the first step!

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