November is lung cancer awareness month, highlighting the leading cancer killer of adult men and women. Over 150,000 deaths from lung cancer are estimated to occur in women and men in 2015 making lung cancer the leading cause of cancer deaths by far. Only 15% of lung cancers are found at a localized stage meaning low survival rates. What are the facts about this killer?
- Tobacco use is the leading cause of lung cancer. Around 90% of lung cancers are related to smoking.
- Risk for lung cancer from smoking are related to the length of time and amount of smoking. Those who have smoked the equivalent of 30 pack years or more are at the greatest risk but even a history of 10 pack years of smoking means a higher risk of lung cancer.
- Other risk factors include second hand smoke exposure, exposure to asbestos and exposure to radon gas. Family history may play a role in some.
- Signs and symptoms from lung cancer are nonspecific, overlapping with many non-cancerous conditions and include: cough, shortness of breath, chest pain and coughing up blood.
What can we do to beat this killer?
- Smoking cessation is key! If you smoke, your doctor has resources that can help you or your loved one quit.
- Finding lung cancer earlier means improved survival.
- Screening with low dose CT can lower the risk of dying from lung cancer with the largest study showing a decrease in the risk of death by at least 20%.
Who should undergo screening?
- Current smokers or those who have quit smoking in the last 15 years.
- Those who have smoked an equivalent of 30 pack years (for example, smoking 1 pack per day for 30 years or 2 packs per day for 15 years, etc.).
- Smokers aged 55-75.
Screening will occur with a low dose CT performed every year while criteria are met. Screening should be performed as part of a total program aimed at reducing the risk of lung cancer, meaning smoking cessation is a key part.
This November, let’s spread the word: lung cancer is a leading cancer killer, one which we CAN do something about. If you are at risk, get screened with low dose CT yearly and reduce your risk by joining the ranks of the non-smokers.
Originally published 11/11/15 on diagnosticimagingcenterskc.com.