According to The World Health Organisation, almost 6 million people per year succumb to tobacco related diseases in one form or another. India itself has a very long history of tobacco consumption and is second only to China on the worldwide stage. This statistic is obviously nothing to be proud of and when you add to the fact that India also has the second largest population in the world, we can only start to imagine how many deaths are caused by smoking in India. Around 1 million cases of cancer in India are being diagnosed on an annual basis and lung cancer is at the top of the list of different strains of this deadly disease. According to Richard Sullivan of the esteemed King’s College of London, as many as three in five cancer deaths in India are related to some form of tobacco consumption. It is feared that these figures will continue to rise until something has been done about the way Indians seem to embrace smoking in the twenty first century.
Mumbai and lung cancer
A recent government article closely details the devastating effect that tobacco smoking has had on the population of the Indian city of Mumbai in particular. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3523470/)
Around 23.7% of cancer deaths from men in the area are tobacco related and 8.3 % of women who died from cancer succumbed to the same fate because of tobacco. An interesting fact is that a higher percentage actually died from chewing tobacco as opposed to smoking cigarettes or related products. The main issue with Bidis is that they are manufactured without much concern for quality or quantity control whereas at least cigarettes are produced in a somewhat controlled environment. Smoking appears to be a large part of the social life in the city of Mumbai and particularly with men and women between the ages of 35-69. One fact that may be shocking to readers is that lung cancer continues to wipe out more people than Malaria, TB and Aids combined. Yet we always have the choice to smoke or to not partake.
In Mumbai, as with the rest of the world, some of the tragic casualties from smoking are those who have never lit a cigarette during their lives. These figures may have dropped somewhat thanks to the introduction of no-smoking areas in buildings but there still remains a large number of deaths that could have been avoided with some care and attention. Also known as second hand smoke, the product that smokers eventually breathe back into the atmosphere is far from harmless. Non-smokers are exposed to this dirty smoke and the results can be somewhat terrifying. Second hand tobacco smoke has somewhere in the region of 7,000 different chemicals and more than 250 of those are dangerous to humans. We are talking about Arsenic, Benzene, Chromium and Formaldehyde to name just four of the bi-products included in second hand smoke. These all are known to cause cancer and there are a whopping 65 others in this product that are just as deadly. In the USA alone, some 3,000 deaths from lung cancer are from people who inhale this deadly combination of chemicals mixed with the breath of whoever was kind enough to smoke a tobacco related product in their vicinity. If we look at the comparative populations of USA and India, it is not hard to imagine how many Indians succumb to the deadly pastime of passive smoking every year.
How tobacco can cause cancer
We’ve already talked a little about the way that the chemicals emitted from smokers can harm and even kill those in the vicinity, so how about those smokers who are in direct contact with this deadly substance? So, we know that from the 250 of the chemicals that are produced when one lights up a cigarette, 69 of these are directly connected with known cases of cancer. However it isn’t only lung cancer that kills smokers, mouth cancer is another huge killer as well as larynx, throat, kidney, liver and many more strains of this relentless silent assassin. Other potentially deadly diseases including diabetes, tuberculosis, macular degeneration and many more are known to be related to those who smoke regularly. Essentially, smoking causes a lot of damage to our bodies and those harmful chemicals deal out so much that our defence systems are not able to cope with it at all. Our cells can usually repair themselves but the relentless attack that tobacco smoke wreaks upon them builds up so many issues that cancer can often start to develop. Ingredients such as nicotine, formaldehyde and ammonia are known carcinogens that when combined, are very unforgiving as far as our DNA and immune systems are concerned.
Signs of lung cancer
- If you are a smoker or are in frequent contact with smoke or maybe you enjoy the product in other ways, there are a number of known symptoms that can act as an early warning system. Of course though, it is far better to distance yourself from these risks in the first instance. If any of the following symptoms seem a little too familiar, we’d advise that you visit your local GP sooner rather than later:
- Constant coughing that simply will not go away
- Weight loss and lack of appetite
- Shortness of breath and wheezing
- Blood appearing when you cough
- Fatigue and feeling weak for no apparent reason
- Chest pain that increases when you cough or even laugh
Whilst these can be attributed to something far less sinister than lung cancer, we cannot be too careful here. For those who are in later stages of lung cancer that has so far been undetected, it is also common to fell a pain in the bones, particularly the hip or back area.
Can lung cancer be cured?
As with any type of cancer or serious disease, early diagnosis is crucial to the chances of survival. Typically, there three different types of surgery that are applied to lung cancer and which one is carried out will depend on how far the disease has spread and how long you have been suffering:
- Lobectomy – This type of surgery is when a large part, or several parts, of the lung is removed. If the cancer has only affected one of your lungs, this will usually be the surgery that is recommended.
- Pneumonectomy – This is far more severe and the entire lung will be removed. If cancer covers the whole organ or is embedded into the core of the lung, you will need to undergo a pneumonectomy.
- Segmentectomy – If you are lucky enough to have been diagnosed early enough and the cancer is small and in one area of your lung, segmentectomy or wedge resection surgery will be the surgery of choice. Although not particularly pleasant, if you have been recommended for this type of surgery, the chances of survival will be fairly high.
Thanks to surgical advances and improved technology, the removal of an entire lung isn’t quite as drastic as it may sound. It is fairly common for those who have undergone pneumonectomy to carry on living a normal life afterwards.
Other methods of curing lung cancer include radiotherapy, chemotherapy and various biological therapies. All of these have potentially unpleasant side effects and none of them has a 100% success rate at the time of writing this article.
How to stop smoking in 2017 and beyond
Prevention is always the better option when compared to any of the cures we have talked about in the previous paragraph. But how easy is it to stop smoking? Well, it is far more sensible to never start this dreadful habit in the first place. Sadly, everyday there are young and not so young people all over India and the world who light up for the first time. As with any type of addiction, giving up smoking or any type of tobacco consumption isn’t going to be a walk in the park. The way that smokers crave a cigarette makes it so very difficult for them to live without this vice. But here are a number of suggested treatments or activities that are proven to work when trying to kick the habit:
- Think about the reasons why you are giving up smoking and once you are motivated, it does become somewhat easier to try the suggestions below
- Nicotine Replacement Therapy does work and your doctor should be able to get you started on a course of this treatment
- Try and stay clear of drinking alcohol or any other triggers that can often lead to the urge to light up. These include friends who smoke or places where smokers tend to frequent such as pubs and club environments
- Although vaping seems to be an alternative to smoking, do a little research before you actually try this yourself because it can lead to yet another vice that isn’t that healthier either.
- Speak to your online pharmacy about the various non-smoking aids that are available. Some may appeal more than others depending on your lifestyle and requirements.
- Hypnotherapy has been proven to help with giving up smoking and there are also those who will swear by acupuncture as the best option.
Do yourself a favour
So, whether you are living in Mumbai or another part of India and you really are concerned about your health, please avoid cigarettes and other tobacco related products. If you have already started and wish to get off that particular bus, please seek the appropriate help now. We’d recommend a visit to your doctor or pharmacist for some proven tips on how to start leading a healthier life. If not for you, think about the people around you, your loved ones and even the environment. Tobacco kills without any compassion and millions of deaths every year are the proof that nothing good can come of it. If you feel that you may have already developed some form of tobacco related health issue, please do not leave it to Lady Luck. Visit your GP as soon as possible who will refer you to a cancer specialist either here in Mumbai or wherever you are living at the moment. The key word here is ‘living’ so please give up now before it is too late.