Lung Cancer Awareness

Lung Cancer Awareness

One in 4 cancer deaths are due to lung cancer.

It is the leading cause of death from cancer among men and women.

Eighty-five percent of lung cancers are non-small cell lung cancer and 15 percent to 20 percent are considered small cell lung cancers.

Two out of 3 lung cancer cases occur in adults over the age of 65, with the average age of diagnosis about 70.

Research studies have looked for reasons why patients with lung cancer are so often diagnosed after the disease is well advanced, making it unlikely that treatment will save their life. Although a prevailing assumption has been that patients lack access to a facility for consultation when symptoms arise, it is actually due to the fear of being stigmatized as a smoker, even if they don’t smoke.

Today individuals who smoke owe it to themselves and their loved ones to get a lung screening. Did you know there is now a special type of x-ray that can look at your lungs and see if there are any nodules within them that might be a sign of an early lung cancer starting to form? There is. And it doesn’t require a bowel prep like a colonoscopy does. It does, however, follow the same principles as a colonoscopy; the doctor is looking for colon polyps that if left inside can grow into colorectal cancer. So you have within your reach the ability to get a nodule identified and removed before it turns into lung cancer.

Would we like you to stop smoking if you are a smoker? Sure. But first let’s see what your lungs look like. You should be congratulated for taking this first important step in preventing lung cancer.

If you have not been diagnosed with a pulmonary nodule, you can be screened if you are considered to be at high risk, that is:
  • You are between between the ages of 55 and 74
  • Have a significant smoking habit (the formula is number of packs per day multiplied by the number of years smoked. For example, 1 pack per day times 30 years equals 30 pack/years; 2 packs per day times 15 years equals 30 pack/years)
  • You currently smoke or have quit less than 15 years ago
Or you must be:
  • Be older than 50 years of age
  • Have a 20 pack/years habit (see formula, above)
  • Have one additional risk factor (such as radon or occupational exposure, history of smoking–related cancer, family history of lung cancer, or history of COPD or pulmonary fibrosis).
Screening includes:
  • Meeting with a health care provider during the first visit to provide personal history and determine your risk of developing lung cancer
  • Low-dose CT scans annually for three years

If you or a loved one are a smoker, please speak with your health care provider about whether you or they are a candidate for lung cancer screening.

For those of you who would like to quit smoking, there is assistance. Quitting is difficult and you can increase your chances for success by drawing on the support that is available. Check to see if your employer offers a smoking cessation program. The American Cancer Society is an excellent resource, or you can speak to your Managing Cancer at Work nurse navigator to help identify local resources for you.

The benefits to quitting are immediate and long term. On the third Thursday in November the American Cancer Society sponsors “The Great American Smokeout” for those who are ready to quit smoking and take an important step in improving their health and reducing cancer risk. Please encourage a smoker you know to take part, or plan to stop yourself. Your good health awaits!

References
American Cancer Society (2017). The Great American Smokeout.
Retrieved from: https://www.cancer.org/healthy/stay-away-from-tobacco/great-american-smokeout.html

Wender, R., Fontham, E. T. H., Barrera, E., Colditz, G. A., Church, T. R., Ettinger, D. S., Etzioni, R., Flowers, C. R., Scott Gazelle, G., Kelsey, D. K., LaMonte, S. J., Michaelson, J. S., Oeffinger, K. C., Shih, Y.-C. T., Sullivan, D. C., Travis, W., Walter, L., Wolf, A. M. D., Brawley, O. W. and Smith, R. A. (2013), American Cancer Society lung cancer screening guidelines. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, 63: 106–117. doi:10.3322/caac.21172