Lung cancer is one of the most common types of cancer and cause of cancer deaths in the United States. In honor of World Lung Cancer Day on August 1, let’s look at this disease and how to prevent it.
The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be about 228,820 new cases of lung cancer and about 135,720 deaths from lung cancer in 2020 alone. It is most commonly diagnosed among individuals aged 65 or older, but can develop in younger people.
Lung cancer accounts for nearly 25 percent of all cancer deaths. However, reduced smoking rates have led to a reduction in new lung cancer cases.
Lung cancer risk factors
Tobacco smoking is the main risk factor for lung cancer. Others risk factors include:
- Secondhand smoke
- Exposure to radon, asbestos, radioactive ores, or diesel exhaust
- Air pollution
- Previous radiation therapy in the chest
- Family history of lung cancer
Research has not yet definitively shown whether vaping or marijuana use increase the risk of lung cancer. However, some research suggests that vaping could cause acute lung injury.
Limiting exposure to tobacco, smoke, and other cancer-causing substances can help reduce your risk of lung cancer. Lifestyle factors like a healthy diet and exercise are also recommended.
Symptoms of lung cancer
Early on, most lung cancers do not cause noticeable symptoms. Most lung cancer symptoms could also be attributed to other conditions. Symptoms include:
- Persistent cough
- Coughing up blood or rust-colored phlegm
- Chest pain that worsens when you breathe deeply, cough, or laugh
- Hoarse speaking
- Loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss
- Shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, or wheezing
- Fatigue or weakness
- Respiratory infections that do not go away or keep coming back
Lung cancer screening
Because lung cancer could be asymptomatic in early stages, it may not be detected until the disease has advanced. The five-year survival rate for lung cancer is 56 percent for cases detected early, when the disease is only in the lungs. If the cancer spreads to other organs, the five-year survival rate falls to 5 percent.
Lung cancer screening for at-risk individuals can help detect and diagnose the disease earlier. Researchers have studied different types of medical imaging to determine their efficacy in detecting lung cancer.
Screening with low-dose spiral computed tomography (CT) has been found to decrease the risk of dying from lung cancer among heavy smokers. A low-dose CT scan requires no dyes or injections. While it does expose users to radiation, low-dose CT carries the same amount of radiation that an average American would naturally be exposed to over six months, says the American Lung Association.
MRI scans may also be used after a low-dose CT has detected lung cancer. MRI scans can help determine the stage of lung cancer, and to find cancer that has metastasized (spread) to other parts of the body.
Concerned about your cancer risk? The Ezra Full Body Scan may include a low-dose CT of the lungs for individuals at high risk of lung cancer. Your Ezra medical provider will consider your personal health history and risk factors to determine whether this option is right for you. Get started today.