Smoking and Cancer

Smoking has been linked to several types of cancer including cancer of the lungs, mouth, throat, stomach, bladder, and colon. It has been a common cause of death amongst people having these types of cancer. When alcohol consumption is coupled with smoking, the risk of developing these types of cancer is very high.

Lung cancer is the most common form of cancer caused by smoking. About one in four smokers will eventually die of lung cancer. Male smokers have a 20% increased risk of developing lung cancer, while female smokers have a 13% increased risk.

Harmful substances make up tobacco smoke. Around 60 of these substances cause cancer. The cancer-causing chemicals are found in the tar, 70% of which stays inside the lungs when a person inhales cigarette smoke. Benzpyrene, a carcinogen found in the tar of cigarette smoke, damages and destroys a gene in the body that is responsible for controlling cancer cell growth. Over time, the chemicals and toxins from cigarette smoke stimulates the lung tissues into developing cancerous cells.

Tumor formation can be benign or malignant. Benign tumors are not harmful unless they are very big in size. They develop slowly and do not spread to other tissues. On the other hand, malignant tumors are cancerous and can be fatal if not detected early. Malignant tumor cells reproduce erratically, destroying the surrounding tissues and spreading uncontrollably. The result is metastasis or the spread of cancerous cells to other organs of the body.

There are two types of lung cancer; On-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancers (SCLC). SCLC, the more aggressive type of lung cancer, is found in about 20% of lung cancer cases. This form of lung cancer is strongly related to smoking.

The following are lung cancer symptoms demanding immediate attention and treatment:

* Constant coughing that worsens with time

* Coughing up blood

* Wheezing, shortness of breath, or a hoarse throat

* Constant chest pains

* Massive weight loss and loss of appetite

* Repeated bronchitis or pneumonia

* Swelling in the neck and face areas

Not all cancers are fatal. If detected early, cancerous cells or tumors can be surgically removed and monitored. Treatment will vary on the type of cancer, location, tumor size, and the patient’s general health. Tumors and affected surrounding tissues are often removed by surgery, after which the patient may or may not receive chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

It is important for a recovering cancer patient to change his or her lifestyle dramatically. He or she should never smoke again, whether actively or passively. Harmful substances in food must be avoided, for these can trigger the growth of cancer cells. Friends and family play an important role in supporting the patient acquire a new, healthier lifestyle.