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Four Things You Didn’t Know About Smoking And Lung Cancer

Fort Bend Sun, Sugar Land
By Zehra Kapadia, M.D. and Div Mehta, M.D.

For years, anti-smoking campaigns have touted the message – “Smoking causes lung cancer.” Today, you’d be hard-pressed to find any American unaware of the link between the two.

However, during Lung Cancer Awareness Month, it’s important to highlight lesser-known facts about lung cancer and smoking.

Not all lung cancer is caused by smoking
According to the American Cancer Society, while cigarette smoking is the most important risk factor for developing lung cancer, smoking accounts for 87 percent of lung cancer deaths. This means that there are thousands of people diagnosed with lung cancer each year who have never smoked. Other risk factors include exposure to secondhand smoke and ongoing exposure to asbestos, certain metals and air pollution.

Genetics can also make you more susceptible to developing lung cancer, especially those who develop it at a younger age. People who are more genetically prone to the disease should be extra cautious and reduce exposure to carcinogens.

Screenings are not available for lung cancer
Mammograms help detect breast cancer, but for lung cancer there isn’t a screening test. Recent studies suggest that CT scans can be a valuable screening tool that helps detect lung cancer at early, more treatable stages. This could lead to an approved screening test in the future.

Watch for early signs of lung cancer, and see your doctor if you experience any of the following:

Persistent cough or hoarseness of voice

Deep chest pain, shoulder or upper-back pain

Shortness of breath or wheezing

Reddened, rust-colored or bloody phlegm

Recurrent respiratory infections, like pneumonia or bronchitis

Weight loss or lack of appetite

Abnormal breast growth in men

While many of these symptoms could indicate other conditions, they can also be symptoms of lung cancer. Trust your gut – if you are not feeling right, consult your physician.

Tobacco use causes more than lung cancer
In the United States, the leading cause of preventable illness and death is tobacco use, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Smoking can also cause other cancers including bladder, cervical, esophageal, kidney, lip, larynx, mouth, acute myeloid leukemia, nasal cavity, pancreatic, sinuses, stomach, and throat cancer. It also contributes to heart disease, emphysema, bronchitis, and stomach ulcers.

States ban smoking to protect health
The most important thing you can do to prevent lung cancer is stop smoking, or distance yourself from those who do. A Center for Disease Control report released this year said the number of states with comprehensive indoor smoking bans went from zero in 2000 to 26 in 2010. In a decade, the entire nation could be covered by smoking bans in workplaces, bars, and restaurants.

While the Texas Legislature recently considered a statewide ban on smoking in public places, it wasn’t passed. Only three southern states – Florida, Louisiana, and North Carolina – have laws banning smoking in any two of the three venues (workplaces, restaurants, and bars). If Texas passed a comprehensive statewide smoke-free law, the measure would be expected to save an estimated $31 million in state Medicaid costs over two years.

In the absence of a smoking ban, avoid indoor areas like bars and restaurants that have a high concentration of smokers.

For more information, visit www.TexasOncology.com.

Dr. Zehra Kapadia is a medical oncologist at Texas Oncology-Houston Willowbrook, 13300 Hargrave Rd., Suite 190. Dr. Div Mehta is a radiation oncologist at Texas Oncology-Clear Lake, 450 Blossom, Suite E in Webster, and Texas Oncology-Deke Slayton Cancer Center, 501 Medical Center in Webster. Texas Oncology has practices throughout the Greater Houston area, including specialists in medical oncology, radiation oncology, gynecologic oncology, urology, and breast care.By Zehra Kapadia, M.D. and Div Mehta, M.D.

Texas Oncology-Houston Willowbrook
Texas Oncology Services