Lung cancer diagnoses among women will dwarf men this year for the first time, according to alarming projections.
Cancer Research UK now wants women to be as ‘vigilant’ for the symptoms of the deadly disease as they are for breast cancer.
Experts from the charity analyze 27,332 cases of lung cancer among women in the UK during 2022.
For comparison, the expected annual figure for men is 27,172.
The forecast also suggests that the gap will continue to widen until at least 2040.
Every year since records began, more men than women have been diagnosed with lung cancer in the UK. Between 2016 and 2018 there was an average of 25,404 new cases each year in men and 23,396 in women
Symptoms are often not noticed until the disease has spread through the lungs and to other parts of the body. This means that survival rates are lower than for other types of cancer, with about two in five people with lung cancer surviving at least one year after diagnosis.
A persistent cough, shortness of breath and fainting may also be symptoms of lung cancer, according to Cancer Research UK
Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer death in the UK, killing more than 34,000 Britons each year.
But the symptoms of the disease are often not noticed until a later stage, by which time it has spread and treatment is less effective.
Every year since records began, more men than women have been diagnosed with lung cancer in the UK.
Between 2016 and 2018 there was an average of 25,404 new cases each year in men and 23,396 in women.
When records began in the early 1990s, the gap was even greater.
Alizée Froguel, Cancer Research UK prevention policy manager, said: ‘From 2022-24, 49.9 per cent of new lung cancer cases are projected to be in men, with 50.1 per cent in men. women.
‘By 2038-40, by comparison, 47.4 percent of cases will be men, with 52.6 percent in women.
‘This change is mainly due to historical differences in smoking prevalence between the sexes.
“Smoking rates peaked much earlier in men than in women, so the incidence of lung cancer in men began to decline earlier than in women.”
Figures have also shown that a higher proportion of men quit smoking than women in the late 1970s, with almost as many women smoking as men during the 1980s and 1990s.
According to the charity Action on Smoking and Health, between 1982 and 1998, the proportion of men and women who smoked dropped from 38 and 33 percent, respectively, to 28 and 26 percent.
Ms Froguel added: “Lung cancer causes more deaths in the UK than any other type of cancer, and smoking is by far the leading cause of the disease.”
“But funding cuts meant there aren’t enough public health campaigns to encourage people to quit smoking, and many people don’t have access to services that will help them do so.
“If governments across the UK are serious about preventing cancer and achieving a smoke-free UK, they must urgently deliver the vital funds needed to tackle the leading cause of cancer and save countless lives.”
It comes after the government announced last month that everyone in England who has ever smoked will be offered a lung cancer screening in middle age.
The national program is expected to detect cancer earlier in about 9,000 people each year, increasing their chances of survival.
Smoking is the most common cause of lung cancer, accounting for more than 70 in 100 cases, according to the NHS.
However, even people who have never smoked can also develop the disease, which mainly affects older people. More than four out of 10 people diagnosed are over the age of 75.
Between 2016 and 2018 there were an average of 25,404 new cases of lung cancer each year in men and 23,396 in women. However, analysis by Cancer Research UK for The Guardian also suggested that by 2038-40 some 34,835 women and 31,353 men would be diagnosed with the disease.
There are two main forms of the disease: non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer (SCLC).
The first represents eight out of ten cases and is a less aggressive form of the disease.
While the latter, small cell lung cancer, is very aggressive and usually spreads faster. The survival rate tends to be lower for SCLC.
Symptoms are often not noticed until the disease has spread through the lungs and to other parts of the body.
This means that survival rates are lower than for other types of cancer, with about two in five people with lung cancer surviving at least one year after diagnosis.
Speaking about the Cancer Research UK projections, Paula Chadwick, chief executive of the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, urged women to be “vigilant”.
‘While we are not surprised by these latest figures, they still paint a very stark picture. That being said, knowledge can equal power,” he said.
“These calculations can serve as an important reminder to women about the prevalence of lung cancer, and potentially minimize the devastation it could cause,” she added.
‘Women are regularly reminded of the importance of checking their breasts for lumps and keeping appointments for mammograms.
“Now we need them to be just as vigilant for possible symptoms of lung cancer and get screened for their lungs, if invited.”
WHAT IS LUNG CANCER?
Lung cancer is one of the most common and serious types of cancer.
Around 47,000 people are diagnosed with the disease each year in the UK.
There are usually no signs or symptoms in the early stages of lung cancer, but many people with the condition eventually develop symptoms including:
– a persistent cough
– coughing up blood
– persistent dyspnea
– unexplained tiredness and weight loss
– an ache or pain when breathing or coughing
You should see a GP if you have these symptoms.
types of lung cancer
There are two main forms of primary lung cancer.
These are classified according to the type of cells in which the cancer begins to grow.
– Non-small cell lung cancer. The most common form, representing more than 87 percent of cases.
– It can be of three types: squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma or large cell carcinoma.
– Small cell lung cancer: a less common form that usually spreads faster than non-small cell lung cancer.
– The type of lung cancer you have determines which treatments are recommended.
who is affected
Lung cancer mainly affects older people. It is rare in people under 40 years of age.
More than four in 10 people diagnosed with lung cancer in the UK are aged 75 or over.
Although people who have never smoked can develop lung cancer, smoking is the most common cause (accounting for about 72 percent of cases).
This is because smoking involves regularly inhaling a number of different toxic substances.
Lung cancer treatment
Treatment depends on the type of mutation the cancer has, how far it has spread, and how good your general health is.
If the condition is diagnosed early and the cancer cells are confined to a small area, surgery may be recommended to remove the affected area of the lung.
If surgery is not appropriate due to your general health, radiation therapy to kill the cancer cells may be recommended instead.
If the cancer has spread too far for surgery or radiation therapy to be effective, chemotherapy is usually used.
There are also a number of drugs known as targeted therapies.
They target a specific change in or around cancer cells that helps them grow.
Targeted therapies can’t cure lung cancer, but they can slow its spread.
Fountain: National Health Service