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How Does Lung Cancer Affect Non-smokers?

Affinity Health – a leading provider of affordable health coverage for all South Africans – considers the risks for lung cancer in people who do not smoke.


Did You Know that Lung Cancer is the Leading Cause of Cancer-related Death?

Every year, 1.76 million people die as a result of it around the world, as per the World Health Organisation.


Lung cancer develops when cells in the lungs reproduce out of control. Over time, cancer may spread to other parts of the body. We all know that one of the most significant risk factors for lung cancer is smoking. However, we may be less aware that lung cancer can also develop in people who have rarely or never smoked.


Smoking & Lung Cancer

The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), explains that there are two main types of lung cancers. There is non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer (SCLC), which tend to be more aggressive.


Smoking increases your risk of both types of lung cancer. About 80 to 85 percent of lung cancers are NSCLC, and at least 95 of people with SCLC have a history of smoking. However, people who don’t smoke can also develop NSCLC and (although rare) SCLC.


While it’s true that avoiding tobacco is the most important thing we can do to reduce our risk of lung cancer, there are other risk factors to consider.


Research suggests that lung cancer in non-smokers is much more common in those who:

  • have a family history of lung cancer
  • have a history of certain lung conditions, such as pulmonary fibrosis
  • have experienced prolonged exposure to second-hand smoke (about 7,000 adults die of lung cancer each year as a result of inhaling second-hand smoke)
  • have had repeated exposure to air pollution, and other cancer-causing agents, such as asbestos, or heavy metals


Signs & Symptoms of Lung Cancer 

The earlier lung cancer is detected, the better the prognosis for treatment. However, there are usually no signs or symptoms in the early stages of this disease. This is why an annual medical check-up and cancer screening is so important.


The key to early detection is knowing what to look for, and these are some of the possible early signs/symptoms of lung cancer:


The main symptoms of lung cancer include:

  • a nagging and persistent cough
  • reoccurring chest infections
  • coughing up blood
  • an aching sensation when breathing or coughing
  • persistent breathlessness
  • chronic fatigue or lack of energy
  • loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss


If you experience any of these symptoms, you should see a doctor as soon as possible.


Lung Cancer Treatment Options

Your doctor will order a series of tests to look for cancerous cells and rule out other diseases or conditions.


If a diagnosis of lung cancer is confirmed, you will be transferred to a specialist and a treatment plan devised. Treatment may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and targeted therapy.


“The bottom line is that we are all potentially at risk of developing lung cancer. Smoking, however, does significantly increase your risk of this dreadful disease,” says Murray Hewlett, CEO of Affinity Health.


“It’s never too late to make a decision to stop smoking but know that the longer you do smoke, the higher your risk of lung cancer. Quitting today can give your body time to undo a lot of the damage caused by the chemicals in tobacco smoke. Quitting can also help you towards the goal of leading a healthier life.”


About Affinity Health

Affinity Health aims to provide premier quality, affordable medical insurance to South Africans. We strive to give our clients peace of mind and the highest standard of service when they are faced with injury or illness. We work to deliver innovative solutions that are simple, cost-effective, and proven, so our cover is structured to ensure that you get exactly what you need. For more information, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn

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