As some us may know all too well, lung cancer is a complex illness, and it can be caused in several ways.
The common assumption is usually that lung cancer is caused by smoking, and it’s quite true that most cases are linked directly to smoking tobacco.
Yet what you may not realise is that between 10% and 15% of people with lung cancer have never smoked, and as many as 28% of all cases may not be related to smoking at all.
So, if not smoking, then what else can cause lung cancer?
As we reported earlier this week, one factor is air pollution. Another is exposure to radon gas, an invisible and odourless vapour that can build up in our homes in certain areas of the country.
Sometimes, however, we might be exposed to dangerous materials in our place of work.
Throughout our 30-year history, this charity has worked tirelessly to promote better awareness of lung health risks. We work with employers and trades unions to help improve working conditions in this key area.
This year, the Covid-19 pandemic has severely disrupted both industry and our own safety awareness projects, such as ‘Look After Your Lungs’. Yet we are Still Here to support staff and employers concerned about lung cancer risk factors in the workplace.
Industrial settings in particular can pose threats to our lung health. Heavy plant or machinery may emit tiny particles of soot or carbon, known as PM2.5 which can penetrate deep into the lungs.
The term ‘PM2. 5’ refers to atmospheric particulate matter (PM) with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers, which is only about 3% the diameter of a human hair – so small that they can only be seen with a microscope.
Often these are emitted into the air we breathe by diesel engines, or they can be found in dust or fumes. Over time, breathing in these particles can damage our lungs and could lead to lung cancer or other serious conditions.
At just 46, Stephen Massingham had so much to offer. He ran his own plastering business and was a keen a talented sportsman, who loved golf and squash – and he adored his wife, Hannah.
So it was a bitter blow for them both when he was diagnosed with lung cancer. No-one can know for certain what caused it, but from that point, Stephen made it his mission to raise awareness and challenge the misconceptions that often surround the disease.
Following his death in 2018, Hannah has continued his campaign to promote better understanding of lung cancer, to help people recognise its symptoms and act swiftly if they see them.
She recalls, ‘’It all started with a cough that wouldn’t shift. He also felt really tired, which was strange as he was such an active person. His job kept him very busy. He was an excellent golfer and squash player.
‘’I now know these are two common symptoms of lung cancer but, given his age and the fact that he was a non-smoker, no one put it together. It took five months to get a diagnosis.
He was passionate about sharing his story. He wanted to challenge people’s perception about the disease. Stephen was always happy to talk to people about it. He said that if talking to people helped just one person get an earlier diagnosis than him, then it was worth it.
‘’He told them he wanted to make a difference to the way lung cancer was diagnosed and treated, so that in years to come people would have more options than he had. I never failed to be inspired by him and you could tell others felt the same’’.
Hannah continues her husband’s selfless mission. It’s why she has joined our latest campaign.
Stephen’s passion for helping others goes on because Hannah is STILL HERE.
Exposure to risk in the workplace is STILL HERE. Lung cancer is STILL HERE.
But remember, the NHS is also STILL HERE – and so are we.