As the fifth most commonly diagnosed cancer among Australians in 2019, with a five-year survival rate of only 17%, early detection is vital to ensuring a better outcome for lung cancer sufferers.
Though the most comprehensive study of cancer causation in Australia estimated that 81% of lung cancers in 2010 were caused by tobacco smoking, it is important to remember that lung cancer does not only occur in smokers or people who are classified as ‘high-risk.’ Anyone can be diagnosed at any age, even if they have never smoked before. In Australia 1 in 3 women and 1 in 10 men diagnosed with lung cancer have no history of smoking.
Lung cancer can be difficult to diagnose as many of the symptoms are non-specific and can be masked by other diseases.
Symptoms can include:
- coughing up blood
- a new or persistent cough that changes or won’t go away
- trouble breathing or shortness of breath
- chest or shoulder pain or discomfort – the pain may be worse with coughing or deep breathing
- weight loss or loss of appetite
- a chest infection that won’t go away
Giving up smoking can help reduce your risk and quitting after diagnosis can increase your chance of survival. Avoiding second-hand smoke and cancer-causing agents can also help.
Specialised care for lung cancer patients at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse is provided by Clinical Nurse Specialist Amy O’Donnell. Having personal experience with the disease, she knows first-hand the unique tribulations that come with a lung cancer diagnosis. She is incredibly passionate about her role and the ability to provide emotional support to patients in all phases of their treatment.
“Treatment can be very complex and there’s a huge stigma to battle” Amy says. “When I picture a patient coming through the door, I see them entering a maze. My objective is to make their lives as easy as possible at a time that is often the hardest to deal with in life.”
“Even if I don’t have all the answers… people just want to be heard and listened to, and know they’ve got a voice in the system, someone who’s looking out for them.”
You can read more about Amy and her specialised care role here.
To find out about quitting smoking or if you are concerned about any of these symptoms, talk to your GP.