Lung cancer - the bane of smokers

Pretty Chavango, CNS Correspondent,  Zimbabwe
 Elizabeth (R):lung cancer victim:
 Photo credit: ECCT

Millions of people from all over the world join together in commemorating the annual  World Cancer Day on the 4th of February. Worldwide, over 14.1 million people are diagnosed with cancer and 8 .2 million people succumb to it every year (GLOBCAN 2012). If proper action, such as modifying lifestyles, is taken in time then perhaps 30%-40% of cancers can be prevented and another 30% can be cured if diagnosed early.

Out of all the cancers, more people die from lung cancer than from any other type of cancer, around the world,. In 2012 (the most recent year for which data are available) lung cancer was the most commonly diagnosed cancer, with 1.8 million cases worldwide, accounting for 13% of all cancer cases.  Lung cancer also killed 1.6 million people in 2012 (19.4% of total cancer deaths).

Smoking is by far the leading cause of the disease and smokers are 5 to 10 times more likely to get lung cancer. About 70% of the world’s lung cancer burden can be attributed to smoking alone. Passive smoking has been linked to lung cancer too, because second hand smoke inhaled by innocent non- smokers is equally hazardous.

Lung cancer, also known as carcinoma of the lung or pulmonary carcinoma, is a malignant lung tumor characterized by uncontrolled cell growth in tissues of the lung. If left untreated, this growth can spread beyond the lungs by process of metastasis into nearby tissues or other parts of the body. The most common symptoms are coughing (including coughing up blood), weight loss , shortness of breath, and chest pain.

Although, as of now, lung cancer is not much prevalent in Zimbabwe, there is every need to ensure prevention of the disease, what with more and more farmers switching to growing tobacco that seems to be replacing maize as a cash crop. Lung cancer is a much rarer tumor in women because tobacco smoking is unusual in African women. Zimbabwe is working on ratifying the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), and hoping to implement their obligations under the framework convention.

On measures to prevent the spread of lung cancer, the Zimbabwean government, through the Ministry of Health and Child Care, has called on the law enforcers to descend on public smoking offenders as the ministry intensifies its crackdown on citizens reluctant to comply with the Public Health Act (Tobacco Control) Regulation 264 of 2002 which prohibits smoking in places such as public transport, public halls, public gatherings and on the streets.

Dr Ehsan Latif , Director of Tobacco Control at the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union) told CNS that, “Treatment of cancer in low and middle income countries is both a burden on the health care systems and the affected family. The governments should actively look at tobacco taxes as a resource to fund health care and invest in health promotion activities to apprise the people of the dangers of tobacco use. On one hand the governments struggle to fully fund healthcare systems and on the other hand continue to neglect the under taxed tobacco products. This is a situation which needs to change as soon as possible.”

After fighting a seven year battle with breast cancer, which then spread to the brain, liver and lungs by May 2010, Elizabeth  Chanakira lost her life to cancer on 23 December 2010. Throughout her illness, her daughter – Teurai Chanakira – realized how difficult it was for her mother to get treatment due to the exorbitant costs. She wondered how marginalized cancer patients in the country could possibly afford it.

It was then that she decided to do something about it and so the Elizabeth Chanakira Cancer Trust (ECCT) was born in May 2011. The ECCT supports marginalized cancer patients and provides practical nutritional tools for better health.

"On this World Cancer day we need to reaffirm the commitment to the global targets for decrease of NCDs and specially the 30% reduction of tobacco use by 2025. If we are serious about attaining these targets the work should start now,”  said  Dr Latif.

Pretty Chavango, Citizen News Service - CNS
4 February 2015