TV presenter Jonnie Irwin has revealed he has terminal cancer, which started in his lungs and has now spread to his brain.
The Channel 4 host A place in the sun and the BBC Country getaway said in a new interview that he doesn’t know “how long I have left” to live.
He first became aware that something was wrong when he experienced blurred vision while driving in August 2020. After returning from filming A place in the sunhe was “given six months to live”.
November marks Lung Cancer Awareness Month – a disease many of us think we know the main causes and symptoms of.
However, there are still misconceptions about lung cancer – it doesn’t necessarily just have to be a ‘smoker’s disease’.
We talk to lung cancer experts to debunk the myths, so you have all the information you need…
Myth 1: Lung cancer only affects older people
According to John Costello, pulmonologist at Mayo Clinic (mayoclinichealthcare.co.uk), “Lung cancer is certainly more common in older people – the average age of diagnosis is 70. However, this may simply reflect longer exposure to tobacco smoke.
This does not mean that you will get it exclusively if you are old. According to Lisa Jacques, cancer nurse specialist at Perci Health (percihealth.com), “Most people develop lung cancer in their 60s and 60s, after many years of smoking, but sometimes people get lung cancer. lung cancer at a much younger age, even in their 20s and 30s.
Myth 2: Lung cancer is always caused by smoking
Although smoking can increase your chances of developing lung cancer, it’s not the only cause.
“Smoking is the cause of most lung cancers and the greatest risk factor, but about 10% of people with lung cancer have never smoked,” says Jacques.
Costello adds: “Some lung cancers are genetic and may not be related to smoking, and others are caused by exposures to substances like asbestos, radon and passive smoking” – although he says that these are “relatively rare”.
Myth 3: You cannot reverse the lung damage caused by smoking
“Some of the damage and inflammation caused by smoking can be reversible, but in particular, emphysema is an architectural destruction of the lung that causes extreme shortness of breath and cannot be reversed,” Costello explains.
Quitting smoking can therefore reduce your risk – but not starting at all is much better.
Myth 4: Lung cancer is always fatal
A diagnosis of lung cancer does not mean certain death, but it is still serious.
“Lung cancer has a 60 percent survival rate for five years in people with localized disease,” Costello says. “If it has spread throughout the body at diagnosis, the survival rate is only eight percent.”
However, he says, there are “new techniques for screening for lung cancer, such as CT scans in smokers over 50 with a heavy smoking history.” These “can detect very small tumors early, which can be removed with an 80-90% five-year survival rate.”
So if you have any concerns about a persistent cough, see your GP and get it checked out as soon as possible.
Myth 5: Women don’t have to worry about lung cancer as much as other types
According to Cancer Research UK, men are more likely to get cancer than women (52% of lung cancer cases are men, compared to 48% women). However, these margins are small and women should definitely be aware of lung cancer.
“Lung cancer has been a growing problem in women since they caught up with men in terms of smoking, and they are therefore at risk if they smoke,” says Costello. “Some of the lung cancers unrelated to smoking are more common in women.”
Jacques adds: “It’s the third most common cancer in the UK, and in women it’s the second most common type of cancer.”
So whether you smoke or not, watch out for symptoms of lung cancer – such as a cough that lasts longer than two or three weeks, recurrent lung infections, shortness of breath or pain when breathing – and see your GP if you have concerns.
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