According to the Centers for Disease Control, lung cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States (skin cancer is the most common, followed by breast cancer for women and prostate cancer for men). Here are three things to know about lung cancer.
1. What are the symptoms of lung cancer?
Most lung cancers don’t have symptoms until they’ve spread, but sometimes there are symptoms with early lung cancer. It is important to see a doctor immediately if you are experiencing the following symptoms:
- Chest pain
- Persistent or worsening cough
- Trouble breathing or shortness of breath
- Coughing up blood
- Extreme exhaustion and fatigue
- Weight loss without diet changes, exercise or other known cause
- Repeated bouts of pneumonia
2. Who is at risk for lung cancer?
Several risk factors may increase your chance of getting lung cancer. These risk factors include the following:
- Smoking. Cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. People who smoke are between 15%-30% more likely to get lung cancer or die from lung cancer according to the CDC. And between 80%-90% of all cases of lung cancer are smoking-related and the five-year overall survival rate is 15%.
- Secondhand smoke. Children and adults who are exposed to smoke from other people’s tobacco burning products, even briefly, are at a higher risk for lung cancer.
- Family history of lung cancer. If you or a relative (parents, siblings, children) have had lung cancer, your risk of lung cancer may be higher.
Zero exposure to any form of tobacco is the single greatest thing one can do to reduce the risk of developing cancer.
3. Yearly lung cancer screenings
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in men and women in the United States. In 2018, an estimated 234,030 new cases of lung cancer were diagnosed, which is 13% of all cancer diagnoses. Smoking contributed to 85% of these new cases. Although statistics indicate that the rate of smoking continues to decrease, it is still estimated that over 30% of the population are current or former smokers.
If you feel you’re at high risk for possibly developing lung cancer, a screening for early detection will improve lung cancer survival rates. The following people should schedule a yearly screen for early detection of lung cancer:
- People between 55 and 80 years old with a history of heavy smoking.
- Current or former smokers who have quit in the past 15 years who smoked at least one pack a day for at least 30 years.
- Able and willing to undergo lung biopsy and/or surgery.
Early detection can save your life. Learn more about lifesaving cancer screenings at Ochsner.org/cancer-screenings.