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Medi snips

Lung cancer 2nd most common in Sri Lanka

Health officials have expressed concern over the growing incidence of lung cancer which now ranks as the second commonest cancer among males in Sri Lanka. “It is one of the most preventable cancers .Yet it is regrettable that it is the most common cancer in many countries including Sri Lanka”, Consultant Community Physician, National Cancer Control Programme, Ministry of Health, Dr. Nayana De Alwis told the Sunday Observer . She said smoking any product which contains tobacco and other carcinogens cigarettes are one of the main causes for lung cancer. “Smokers have the highest risk of developing lung cancer though a very small percentage of people who never smoked also can get lung cancer. The risk increases with the number and length of smoking. When people quit smoking their chances of getting lung cancer gradually decreases even after smoking for many years,” she said.

She warned that the risk of developing lung cancer increases with the number of cigarettes smoked per day and the number of years smoked, adding that , “ Quitting this unhealthy habit at any time can reduce the chance of developing lung cancer in significant proportions.”

“Lung cancer occurs in the cells of the lungs. In 2014, there were 1,316 new lung cancer patients reported in Sri Lanka, and of them 1,032 were male patients”, she said.

Signs and symptoms

Asked what the symptoms were of lung cancer, she said in the early stages there are no signs and symptoms in most instances. “Symptoms can be seen only when the disease is advanced”, she said. Commonly occurring symptoms include:

Persistent cough that doesn’t go away and instead it progresses

Coughing up blood sometimes in small amounts

Difficulty in breathing
Chest pain
Changes in the voice (hoarseness)
Unintentional weight loss
Bone pain

Exposure to second hand smoking also caused lung cancer, she said.

Responding to our query on how smoking causes lung cancer, she said , “Cancer causing substances in cigarette smoke damage the cells lining the lungs. These cells die and new cells are formed at initial stages. However, with repeated exposures more normal cells die and the body has to replace these cells by proliferating more and more cells which can lead to the production of a large number of abnormal cells. When there are lots of abnormal cells, body may not be able to control their proliferation and ultimately lead to the development of a cancer.

Workplace exposure to carcinogens can increase the risk of developing lung cancer especially workers who are smoking as well.

Quit smoking - the key

She said the most effective tool to fight lung cancer was to refrain from smoking or quit the habit altogether. To reduce lung cancer she gave the following guidelines:

Don’t smoke – If you have never smoked, do not start.

Stop smoking – stop smoking as soon as possible, quitting decreases the risk of lung cancer even if you have smoked for years

Avoid second hand smoke – Both in the work environment and home environment you have the right to protest someone smoking in close vicinity. Avoid areas where people smoke

Avoid carcinogens at work – take precautions to protect yourself from exposure to toxic chemicals at work. If you are given protective equipment, wear them properly at work. Risk of lung damage is more for workers who smoke.

Don’t burn polythene and plastics which produce carcinogens including Dioxin which when inhaled through air cause cancers especially lung cancer

Consume a healthy diet – containing a variety of fruits and vegetables

Regular physical activity – regular physical activity helps prevent many cancers including lung cancer.

“Lung cancer cannot be detected at early stages and there are no screening programs anywhere in the world to detect lung cancers early, therefore prevention is the key to control lung cancer. If someone had the slightest suspicion of lung cancer he should immediately get himself screened and tested at a government health facility”, she added.

Road accident deaths surpass 1,045 in past seven months

Over 1,045 persons have died in 944 road accidents across the island during the past seven months , a recent report in a leading newspaper has stated. The report said that 11 of the fatalities had been caused by accidents involving bus collisions, a spokesperson from the Kurunegala District Education Office was quoted as saying. The spokesperson quoted Police Headquarters sources as saying that around 14,982 persons had died in road accidents between 2015 and 2020.

Drowning deaths on the rise

Health Ministry sources have expressed concern over a sharp rise in deaths due to drowning by members of the public who insisted on bathing in unsafe stretches of beaches and rivers despite warnings. The most recent of these preventable deaths reported Tuesday August 4 was of two youths, both 19-year olds, who had drowned in the Kelani river. Sources said that children and youth were among the most vulnerable groups for accidental drowning .

According to the latest report on Drowning Prevention in Sri Lanka, the Western province had the highest number of drowning deaths from 2016 to 2018.

The report jointly prepared by Sri Lanka Life Saving, Life Saving Victoria in Australia and the Australian High Commission in Sri Lanka notes, between 2016-18, males were 3.5 times more likely to drown than females.

Canals were reportedly the main locations for drowning incidents accounting for 22% of all deaths in 2016-18. This was followed by sea which is at 21% which includes beach and ocean; and wells which is 18%.

The drowning rate for Sri Lanka averaged over three years from 2016-2018 was 3.5 deaths per 100,000 people.

Sri Lanka had a higher drowning rate across the 15-24 years, 45-64 years and over 65 years age groups when compared to the average drowning rate in both high-income countries and low- and middle-income countries. “Drowning leads to many social, economic and health implications, especially if the victim is the sole bread winner of the family. Health wise, it could lead to malnutrition and under nourishment as the family has no means of finding food for themselves. “, a health official said.

Sources said that since the publication of the 2014 Drowning Prevention Report Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka Life Saving has expanded its life saving services across the country, with many new life saving clubs patrolling 90 of the country’s open waterways including 48 beaches, 38 lakes and reservoirs/tanks and four rivers.

Reports state that Sri Lanka Life Saving performed over 300 rescues each year which amounts to more than 300 lives saved.

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