Lung Cancer in Young Adults: Causes, Challenges and Prevention

Lung cancer is usually more predominant among older individuals who have a history of smoking or if they are exposed to environmental carcinogens for a longer term. However, lung cancer does not only affect the elderly individuals or anyone with history of smoking, but it can develop among young adults or non-smokers as well. Lung cancer in young adults is an increasing concern, with specific causes, unique challenges, and the potential for prevention. In this article, we will explore the causes of lung cancer in young adults, the challenges they face and approaches for prevention.

Causes of Lung Cancer in Young Adults

Smoking is still the primary cause of lung cancer in younger adults, but it’s not the only risk factor. In this age group, lung cancer is caused by multiple factors:

Genetic Predisposition: Even in the absence of smoking or extensive environmental exposure, some people may be prone to lung cancer, making them more likely to develop the disease.

Secondhand Smoke: Exposure to secondhand smoke, whether from a parent, a partner, or a friend—can increase the risk of lung cancer development.

Exposure to Radon: One of the main environmental factors that might cause lung cancer is radon gas, a naturally occurring radioactive element that can be present in some homes and buildings.

Challenges faced by Young adults

Adults with lung cancer experience specific challenges that are different from those experienced by older people. These challenges include:

Delay in Diagnosis: In young adults, lung cancer symptoms are frequently misdiagnosed as other, less serious diseases, which causes a delay in treatment. When diagnosed, this could result in more advanced stages of cancer.

Psychological Impact: For young adults, undergoing lung cancer diagnosis can be both mentally and emotionally devastating. Coping with the shock of cancer diagnosis can be very difficult. 

Fertility Issues: Chemotherapy and radiation therapy for lung cancer could impact a young adult’s ability to conceive and plan for the future.

Financial Strain: Young adults who may not have the same level of financial security as older patients may find the cost of cancer treatment to be quite a struggle.

Preventive Techniques

Preventing lung cancer in young adults involves individual as well as collective efforts. Here are a few essential strategies:

Avoid Smoking: The most effective way to lower the risk of developing lung cancer is to avoid smoking.

Secondhand Smoke: Young adults must create smoke-free surroundings and be mindful of the risks caused by secondhand smoke exposure.

Radon Mitigation: By detecting high levels of this radioactive gas in homes and establishing mitigation strategies, lung cancer risk can be greatly minimized.

Occupational Safety: Usage of safety equipment and adhering to specified rules when working in a profession where there is a chance of exposure to carcinogens.

Air Quality: Being conscious about local air quality levels and taking precautions against air pollution by using air purifiers and staying indoors on cloudy days could significantly reduce the risks of developing this type of cancer.

Early Detection: Individuals should be aware of the symptoms and signs of lung cancer, which include shortness of breath, chest pain, and a chronic cough.

Young adults’ lung cancer is an alarming and a growing concern. In order to effectively manage this disease, it is essential to understand the reasons, challenges, and prevention techniques for early detection, better treatment, and positive outcome of this disease. By addressing these issues, we can collectively work towards increasing awareness and reducing the risks of developing lung cancer among young adults.

Dr. V N Saratchandra Tadepalli, Consultant Surgical Oncologist, HCG Cancer Centre, Vizag

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