Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death, making up almost 25% of all cancer deaths. In 2022 alone, over 230,000 people will be diagnosed with lung cancer, and 130,000 will die from the disease in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society.
Only 16% of lung cancers are diagnosed at a localized stage. And, as with all cancers, early detection makes a significant difference in survival rates.
Localized lung cancer, where the cancer is discovered while it’s confined to one lung, has a survival rate of nearly 60%. Metastatic lung cancer, which is cancer that has expanded to other parts of the body, has a survival rate of only 6%. That’s a 10 times increase in survival rates for early-stage lung cancer compared to late-stage, according to data from the National Cancer Institute.
1. Understand your risk for lung cancer
First and foremost, you need to understand your risk for lung cancer. By far, the two biggest risk factors for lung cancer are a history of smoking and your age.
If you have a significant smoking history (you have smoked a pack per day for 20 years) and are over 50, you may be high-risk and should get screened.
If you need help calculating your overall cancer risk and specifically lung cancer risk, you can do the Ezra Cancer Risk Calculator – it only takes a few minutes.
2. Pay attention to symptoms.
Early-stage cancer is typically asymptomatic, but according to the Mayo Clinic, there are some clear symptoms that you should pay attention to, including shortness of breath, a persistent cough, hoarseness of voice, headaches, bone pain, or unintentional weight loss.
Needless to say, if you happen to be coughing up blood, even in small amounts, you should see a healthcare provider immediately. We’ve written more about lung cancer signs plus its early warning signs at Ezra in the past.
3. Know and understand your screening options.
Once you understand your risk and are aware of what symptoms to look out for, it’s important to know what your options are for screening.
For people at risk of lung cancer (those with a 20-pack-year smoking history and aged 50 or older), the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends a low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) every year. If you are insured and satisfy the risk criteria, your insurer will likely cover an LDCT scan for you.
At Ezra, we believe in broadening access to cancer screening, so we offer affordable low-dose CT scans for lung cancer screening. Whether you’re a current smoker or former smoker, worried about symptoms of lung cancer, or simply trying to understand annual screenings for your overall health, you can read about whether a lung cancer screening program is right for you. You can also see our pricing and book a scan here.
Finally, if you’re a smoker, the best thing you can do to reduce your risk for cancer and improve your health is to quit smoking.
Tobacco smoking increases the risk of several cancers, including those of the oral cavity lung, esophagus, pancreas, uterine cervix, kidney, bladder, stomach, colorectum, and liver.
The American Cancer Society has written an excellent guide on smoking cessation, and the SAMHSA offers a National Helpline for those in need.
I hope you found this guide useful. My belief is that early detection is the best tool we have to wage war against cancer. So I’d like to invite you and your loved ones to get the peace of mind that comes with getting screened.
Founder & CEO