Johnny Irwin’s disease: Experts tackle misconceptions about lung cancer after presenter’s terminal diagnosis


TV presenter Jonny Irvine has spoken openly 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 who live with limited opportunities to make the most of every day, to help them see that you can live a positive life whether or not you die.”

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

“I had to go home and tell my wife, who took care of our children, that she was alone too much. That was devastating. All I could do was apologize to her. I felt so responsible. .

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

There are still some misconceptions about lung cancer — it’s not necessarily just a “smokers’ disease.”

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

Lung cancer only affects older people

According to John Costello, pulmonologist at the Mayo Clinic (, “Lung cancer is definitely more common in older people – the average age of diagnosis is 70 years. However, it may be associated with longer exposure to tobacco smoke.” It reflected.

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This doesn’t mean you don’t get it until you’re old. According to Lisa Jacques, specialist cancer nurse at Perci Health (, “Most people develop lung cancer in their 60s or 70s, after many years of smoking, but sometimes people are younger. Lung cancer also occurs in old age. their 20 and 30 years.

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 about 10% of people with lung cancer have never smoked,” explains Jacques.

Costello says “Some lung cancers are hereditary and may not be related to smoking, and some others are caused by exposure to substances such as asbestos, radon gas and secondhand smoke” – although he says these are “relatively uncommon”.

You cannot reverse lung damage from smoking

“Some of the damage and inflammation caused by smoking can be reversed, but emphysema is specifically the architectural destruction of the lungs that causes extreme shortness of breath and is not reversible,” says Costello.

So quitting smoking can lower your risk, but it’s much better not to start.

lung cancer is always fatal

A lung cancer diagnosis doesn’t mean certain death, but it’s still serious.

“The five-year survival rate for lung cancer in people with localized disease is 65%,” 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 to screen for lung cancer, such as CT scanning in smokers over 50 with a heavy tobacco background”. These “can pick up very small early tumours, which can be removed with an 80-90% five-year survival rate”.

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So if you’re concerned about a persistent cough, see your GP and get it 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 very small and women with lung cancer should be aware of this.

“Lung cancer in women has been an increasing problem since it overtook men in terms of smoking habits, and so they are at risk if they smoke,” says Costello. “Some lung cancers are more common in women than in nonsmokers.”

Jacques says: “It’s the third most common cancer in the UK, and in women it’s the second most common cancer.”

So, whether you smoke or not, be on the lookout for lung cancer symptoms — such as coughing for more than two or three weeks, frequent respiratory infections, shortness of breath, or aches and pains when you breathe — and if you: If you’re concerned, then go to your doctor.

Read the full interview with Johnny Irwin in the Hello! magazine.




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