Iconic Community / 27 Mar, 2020

Lung cancer in women

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Lung cancer in women

Icon Medical Oncologist Dr Daniel Chan was featured in The Straits Times on March 30 2020 discussing lung cancer in young people and how they can reduce their risk of developing the disease. In the article below, he discusses the stigma around lung cancer and what places women at risk.

In Asia, around 60 to 80 percent of females who have lung cancer are non-smokers. Although smoking carries a significantly higher risk of developing lung cancer, with stopping smoking reducing your risk by up to 90%, many women diagnosed with lung cancer have never smoked. People often think that those living with lung cancer only have themselves to blame, which can deeply affect women at a time when they need more support than ever.

Lung cancer risk factors for non-smokers

There are many other factors which can increase your risk of developing lung cancer, including:

  • Second-hand smoking – there is an increased risk for non-smoking people who breathe in the cigarette smoke of others. Living with someone who smokes can increase your risk for lung cancer by approximately 20-30%.
  • Exposure to asbestos and other toxins – people who have been exposed to asbestos (traditionally used in building materials) and other toxins such as radon (a radioactive gas used in the mining industry) have an increased risk of developing lung cancer.
  • Age – the risk of developing lung cancer increases as people age. Most lung cancers are diagnosed in people over the age of 60.
  • Medical history – people who have a medical history of lung disease such as emphysema or fibrosis of the lung may have an increased risk of developing lung cancer.

How does stigma affect women with lung cancer?

Before you judge someone for the cancer they have, it’s important to understand the challenges that women with lung cancer can face from society, healthcare professionals and themselves. The sense of guilt and shame associated with a lung cancer diagnosis can result in women delaying seeing a health care professional, meaning they are diagnosed with more advanced cancer and a lower chance of survival. An Australian study recently found that 50% of people with lung cancer experience distress, anxiety and depression, which can worsen their quality of life.

Finding support

People with lung cancer are no less deserving of support and quality treatment than anyone else impacted by cancer. At Icon we will proudly walk with you throughout your journey, supporting you every step of the way. For more information about lung cancer and its treatment, click here.

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