Your Lungs: November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month
In honor of Lung Cancer Awareness Month, Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Plymouth would like to share some important facts about the prevention, risk factors and symptoms for lung cancer that you and your loved ones should know.
Let’s start with some good news! Lung cancer death rates declined 48% from 1990 – 2016 among men and 23% from 2002 to 2016 among women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The differences reflect historical patterns in tobacco use, where women began smoking in large numbers many years later than men and were slower to quit.
KNOW THE FACTS
Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in both men and women (not counting skin cancer), and is the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women. Each year, more people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined!
Each year, about 218,000 people in the United States are told they have lung cancer and more than 150,000 people will die from this disease, and about 7,300 people who never smoked die from lung cancer due to secondhand smoke exposure every year.
Most lung cancers could be prevented, because they are related to smoking (or secondhand smoke), or less often to exposure to radon or other environmental factors. But some lung cancers occur in people without any known risk factors for the disease and it is not clear if these cancers can be prevented.
It’s important to note that having a risk factor, or even several, does not mean you will get the disease. And some people who get the disease may have few or no known risk factors.
Risk Factors May Include: Smoking is by far the leading risk factor for lung cancer. About 80% of lung cancer deaths are thought to result from smoking. The longer you smoke and the more packs a day you smoke, the greater your risk. (see below for resources on how to quit smoking)
Exposure to Radon. Radon is naturally occurring radioactive gas that results from the breakdown of uranium in soli and rocks. You can’t see, taste, or smell it. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S., and is the leading cause among non-smokers.
Air Pollution. This risk is far less than the risk caused by smoking, but some researchers estimate that worldwide about 5% of all deaths from lung cancer may be due to outdoor air pollution.
Personal or Family History of Lung Cancer. If you have had lung cancer, you have a higher risk of developing another lung cancer. Brothers, sisters, and children of people who have had lung cancer may have a slightly higher risk of lung cancer themselves, especially if the relative was diagnosed at a younger age.
SYMPTOMS OF LUNG CANCER
Many people with lung cancer don’t have symptoms until the disease has progressed to its later stages. Because there are very few nerve ending in the lungs, a tumor could grow without causing pain or discomfort. Below are the more common symptoms. See your doctor right away if you notice any of these symptoms.
LUNG CANCER SCREENING GUIDELINES (for Current or Former Smokers)
American Cancer Society guidelines recommend yearly lung cancer screening for people who meet certain criteria that put them at higher risk for developing the disease.
- Age 55 to 77 years old
- In fairly good health
- Currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years
- Have a smoking history equivalent to a pack a day for 30 years
Lung Cancer Screening uses a low-dose CT scan of the chest and is for individuals who are at an increased risk for lung cancer.
BID-Plymouth offers a Lung Cancer Screening Program to those who meet the criteria. Please speak to your primary care provider to determine if a screening is right for you.
The best way to reduce your risk of cancer is by making healthy choices like eating right, staying active and not smoking. Are you doing all you can do to stay healthy? Take the American Cancer Society’s Nutrition and Activity Quiz and find out how to incorporate nutrition and physical activity into your daily life.
Resources to Help Quit Smoking
American Cancer Society
American Heart Association
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Quitters Stop Smoking Program