Lung Cancer Awareness 101

Don’t smoke? You should still know this, because smoking isn’t the only thing that causes lung cancer.

November is lung cancer awareness month for good reason. If you’ve decided to kick the habit this year, then now is the perfect time for it. If you’ve never smoked in your life, that’s great news, but it doesn’t mean you are entirely immune to developing lung cancer. Read on to find out why.

The best way to beat any disease is to know about the risk factors and take measures to prevent them. The second best way is to know the symptoms in order to act early in seeking medical help. Because when it comes to cancer, an early diagnosis means higher chances of recovery. Here’s our Lung Cancer Awareness 101 -a resource about the risk factors, symptoms and some ways to prevent lung cancer.

Watch our video Dr Faheem Butt, a Consultant Pulmonologist at SKMCH&RC, to learn more about the symptoms of lung cancer patients and the treatment being carried out at the hospital.

Did you know?

Forget all the myths. Here are some tested and proven facts about lung cancer, straight from Shaukat Khanum Hospital Research Centre specialists, that may surprise you.

Lung cancer developes in women at a younger age than it does in men. Does this mean men are more hard-wearing? Perhaps. Studies have shown that the age of lung cancer onset in females, is lower than that seen in males. They’ve also proven that women are more susceptible to the carcinogenic affects of tobacco.

More male lung cancer patients are smokers than female lung cancer patients. What does that mean? It means smoking is more often the cause of lung cancer in male patients diagnosed with the disease, as opposed to female patients. So if lung cancer patients who are female aren’t even smokers, what causes their disease? Read on for some hints.

Risk Factors

It is true that lung cancer occurs most in smokers, and that the risk of getting lung cancer increases with the length of time and number of cigarettes you have smoked. But lung cancer can occur even in people who have never smoked in their lives! Here are all the primary risk factors of lung cancer:

  • Smoking
  • Exposure to second hand smoke for a prolonged period
  • Exposure to asbestos and similar carcinogens
  • Exposure to radon gas
  • Having a family history of lung cancer


In its early stages, lung cancer doesn’t typically show obvious signs and symptoms. These usually occur only when the disease is advanced, and they can often be mistaken for a bad cold or flue. They include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Hoarseness
  • A cough that doesn’t go away
  • Coughing up blood
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Headaches
  • Bone pain

See your doctor if you are concerned about something being out of the ordinary for your body, or if you have any persistent signs from the list above. For more info on cancer and it’s various types, read our What is Cancer page.


There is no surefire way to prevent lung cancer, but you can certainly reduce the risks. Here are some of the ways:

Don’t Smoke – If you aren’t a smoker, this is great. Protect your children and other young people in your family from lung cancer by speaking to them early on about the dangers of smoking.

Quit Smoking – it’s never too late to stop smoking. Even if you’ve smoked for years, quitting now can reduce your risk of lung cancer. If you find it difficult, talk to your doctor about ways and aids to help you break the habit.

Avoid Second Hand Smoke – ever since the UK’s smoking ban in enclosed public spaces, it’s now easier to avoid inhaling second hand smoke. Still, stay away from smokers and urge members of your family or friends who smoke to quit smoking or only smoke outside the house.

Test your Home for Radon – radon is a colourless, odourless gas produced by the radioactive breakdown of small amounts of uranium that occur naturally in soil and rock. You can find out more about how to measure for radon in your home and how to reduce high levels through simple building works at UKRadon.

Avoid Exposure to Asbestos and Other Carcinogens – if your work involves exposure to such chemicals, take care to reduce your exposure to them. Always wear face masks and protective gear, and follow employer precautionary procedures to a T. Eating yogurt can also help as some studies show that bacteria used in the production of lactic-acid inactivate carcinogens.

Eat Lots of Fruit and Veg – Maintaining a healthy diet is key to a healthy lifestyle. Choose a diet rich in antioxidants such selenium, beta carotene and vitamins C and E. These can protect against oxidants which lead to cell damage. Ideally these vitamins and minerals should occur naturally in the food you eat. Avoid taking them in supplement form, since these can in fact cause more harm than good!

Exercise Regularly – Exercise helps maintain healthy hormone levels, decreases inflammation, improves immune function and contributes to higher levels of natural antioxidants. It also reduces other factors that can contribute to the growth of cancer such as insulin.

If you found this resource useful share it with others! Protect your family and friends by telling them about them or post it to Facebook and Twitter. You could be two clicks away from saving someone’s life.

Would you like to help IKCA give hope of life to poor patients suffering from lung cancer and other forms of cancer in Pakistan? Why not consider sponsoring the full or partial treatment of a cancer patient? Find out more

For more information and lung cancer and its risks, you can read or Download the Shaukat Khanum Hospital Lung Cancer Information leaflet.

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