Experts address misconceptions about lung cancer after presenter’s terminal diagnosis

TV host Jonnie Irwin has opened up about his terminal cancer diagnosis.

The presenter of Channel 4’s A Place In The Sun and BBC’s Escape To The Country told Hello! magazine, he hopes to “inspire people living with life-limiting perspectives to make the most of each day, to help them see that you can live a positive life, even if you are dying.”

The 48-year-old describes how the first warning sign of his illness came in August 2020 when he was filming in Italy and his vision became blurry. “A week after I got back from filming, I was given six months to live,” he said.

“I had to go home and tell my wife, who was looking after our babies, that she was pretty much alone. That was devastating. All I could do was apologize to her. I felt so responsible.”

Irwin has three-year-old son Rex and two-year-old twins Rafa and Cormac with his wife Jessica. “I don’t know how much time I have left, but I try to stay positive and my attitude is I’m living with cancer, not dying from it,” Irwin said.

There are still some misconceptions surrounding lung cancer – it’s not necessarily just a case of ‘smoker’s disease’.

Lung cancer experts debunk the myths. Here is all the information you need…

Lung cancer only affects the elderly

According to John Costello, pulmonologist at the Mayo Clinic (, “Lung cancer is certainly more common in older people – the average age at diagnosis is 70 years. This may, however, just reflect longer exposure to tobacco smoke.”

This does not mean that you will exclusively get it if you are old. According to Lisa Jacques, head cancer specialist at Perci Health (, “Most people develop lung cancer in their 60s and 70s after many years of smoking, but occasionally people develop lung cancer. lung at a much younger age, even in your 20s and 30s.”

Lung cancer is always caused by smoking

While 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 biggest risk factor, but around 10% of people who get lung cancer have never smoked,” explains Jacques.

Costello adds: “There are some types of lung cancer that are genetic and may not be related to smoking, and others are caused by exposure to substances such as asbestos, radon gas and secondhand smoke” – although he says they are “relatively uncommon ”.

You cannot reverse lung damage caused by smoking.

“Some of the damage and inflammation caused by smoking may be reversible, but in particular, emphysema is the architectural destruction of the lung that causes extreme shortness of breath and cannot be reversed,” says Costello.

Therefore, quitting smoking can reduce the risk – but not starting is much better.

Lung cancer is always deadly

A diagnosis of lung cancer does not mean certain death, but it is still serious.

“Lung cancer has a 65% five-year survival rate in people with localized disease,” says Costello. “If it has spread throughout the body at the time of diagnosis, the survival rate is only eight percent.”

However, he says that there are “new techniques for screening lung cancer, such as computed tomography in smokers over 50 years old with a serious smoking history”. These “can get very small early tumors, which can be removed with a survival rate of up to 80-90% at five years.”

Therefore, if you are concerned about a persistent cough, consult your doctor and get checked out as soon as possible.

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% of women). However, these margins are small and women need to be absolutely aware of lung cancer.

“Lung cancer has been a growing problem in women since they have caught up with men in terms of smoking and are therefore at risk if they smoke,” says Costello. “Some of the non-smoking lung cancers are more common in women.”

Jacques adds: “It is the third most common type of cancer in the UK and, in women, it is the second most common type of cancer.”

So whether you smoke or not, be on the lookout for symptoms of lung cancer – such as a cough lasting longer than two or three weeks, recurrent chest infections, shortness of breath or pain when breathing – and consult your doctor if you have any concerns.

Read the full interview with Jonnie Irwin on Hello! magazine.

Experts address misconceptions about lung cancer after presenter’s terminal diagnosis

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