NOVEMBER is lung cancer awareness month, when people displaying the common symptoms of lung cancer — such as a persistent cough, breathlessness or unexplained weight loss — are encouraged to visit their doctors.

Lung cancer is estimated to be the cause of nearly one in five deaths (1.59 million deaths, 19.4 per cent of the total) worldwide.

Usually more attention is paid to other types of cancers such as breast, rather than lung, which could be due to the negative connotations surrounding the use of tobacco and its role in developing the disease.

But even though the majority of lung cancer cases are linked to smoking or exposure to tobacco smoke, many of the victims of lung cancer have never smoked or been exposed to a significant amount of second-hand smoke. Some causes are hereditary, or due to the inhalation of radon gas, air pollution, or exposure to asbestos.

When cancer ignites in the lungs it is one of the most deadly, and in many cases, patients do not experience any symptoms until the cancer has extended to large sections of the lungs or even to other parts of the body. This rapid growth, combined with the cancer’s notorious resistance to chemotherapy, makes efforts to promote awareness and continued research even more important.

Therefore, let us all join in the fight against lung cancer this November by encouraging our friends who smoke to give up the habit, while reminding others to pay attention to their family history and environment.

By way of recognition, the Jamaica Cancer Society will host a medical symposium on lung cancer on November 19, and a Relay for Life in St Elizabeth on November 18 and 19.


Smoking still kills

By Dr Aldyth Buckland

SMOKING still kills: it blacks up, blocks up, poisons and disrespects the organs of the body. It dries up the skin and ages the body. It disrespects the penis, testes and ovaries; it disrespects the kidney and the bladder; it disrespects the nose, throat, lungs and sinuses. It disrespects the brain, stomach, colon, heart, blood circulation; it disrespects the eyes, ears, teeth, tongue, fingers and toes. It undermines other conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, asthma, heart disease, and makes their treatment less effective.

If a person is being treated for cancer and continues smoking, it makes the treatment less effective. If a person has heart surgery and continues smoking, it impairs the effects of the procedure. All treatments are expensive. In fact, the most economical treatment for a smoker is to practise quitting.

Lung cancer is mainly preventable, and 87 per cent of cases result from smoking. There are two main types: small cell and non-small cell. Small cell lung cancer is notorious because it may kill in as little as four months despite treatment.

I am concerned that many people are combining cigarettes and ganja, because this has been linked to lung cancer. Sixteen out of one hundred victims of lung cancer will still be alive in five years. The survival rate is very low, especially when you compare it to colon cancer which has a five-year survival rate of 65 per cent, and breast cancer which has a five-year survival rate of 89 per cent. The treatment and investigations are expensive, and its grievous impact on the family and workforce is devastating.

The purpose of smoking is significant: It kills.

The impact of practising quitting is significant, as this gives the body a chance to repair itself and recover its missing parts. Quitting also helps to reduce cravings and other withdrawal symptoms such as agitation and insomnia.

Relearning the ability to live without a cigarette is strengthened in support groups such as the one at the Jamaica Cancer Society called Freshstart. Practising quitting is a mindset and a workout. Keeping well hydrated, exercising and having fun, sleeping restfully, learning other ways to cope with stress and life, prayer and acknowledging divine intervention are powerful! People relearn how to breathe and relax, and strategise how to live life vibrantly without depending on cigarettes.

This causes them to feel better, to experience more energy and vitality, to walk, run and climb the stairs with less huffing and puffing as they continue to practise quitting, and as the body gets a chance to repair itself.

To practise quitting means that you’re practising living a healthy lifestyle, and with help it is possible.


Dr Aldyth Buckland is a medical doctor.