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Lung Cancer Prevention: What You Need to Know

November 10, 2021

In 2021, an estimated 235,760 people will be diagnosed with lung cancer – the deadliest form of cancer in Texas and throughout the United States. While the disease primarily affects men and woman above the age of 70, certain behaviors and environmental factors can put people at risk even at a younger age. Managing your risk factors, monitoring your symptoms, and regularly checking in on your health are critical ways to prevent lung cancer.

During Lung Cancer Awareness Month this November, take the time to reduce your risk, scan for symptoms, and consider regular screenings.

Reduce Your Risk

While not all lung cancers can be prevented, eliminating the most well-known cancer causes may help reduce your likelihood of being diagnosed with the disease.

Don’t smoke. The number one risk factor for lung cancer is tobacco smoke, with evidence showing it causes most lung cancer deaths. To manage your risk, reduce your exposure to tobacco smoke as much as possible, including secondhand smoke.

Avoid radon. Radon is a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas that has been known to cause lung cancer if you are exposed to it for a long period of time – for instance, if your house or workplace has high levels of the gas. Having your home tested and treated for radon can help significantly reduce your exposure and lung cancer risk.

Keep a healthy diet. Recent evidence indicates that both smokers and non-smokers can protect themselves from lung cancer with a diet high in fruits and vegetables.

Scan for Symptoms

While lung cancer symptoms can vary significantly from person to person, it’s important to stay on the lookout for persistent changes and share concerns with your physician. Some of the most common symptoms of lung cancer include the following:

  • Chest pain made worse with deeper breathing, coughing, or laughing
  • Coughing up blood, phlegm, or a persistent cough
  • Hoarseness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Wheezing
  • Breathing trouble, such as shortness of breath
  • Frequent or persistent lung infections
  • Weight loss 

Monitor Your Lung Health

Despite efforts to prevent or avoid lung cancer, the disease still affects approximately one in 15 men and one in 17 women. Because the disease often isn’t diagnosed until later stages, when it may have spread or is harder to treat, lung cancer causes more deaths each year than breast, colon, and prostate cancer combined.

Screenings are one way to help detect the disease as early as possible. For instance, according to the American Lung Association, approximately 23 percent of lung cancer patients are diagnosed with the disease at an early stage, which offers a nearly 60 percent five-year survival rate. But nearly 50 percent of cases are identified at later stages, when treatment is less effective. Overall, the national average for the five-year survival rate has improved 13 percent in the last five years.

For those at a higher risk of contracting lung cancer, regular screenings are even more critical – even if no symptoms are present. People between 50 to 80 years old with a history of smoking one pack per day for 20 years or who have quit within the last 15 years may benefit from having an annual low-dose CT scan to check for lung cancer.

While adults under age 50 are at a comparatively lower risk of contracting lung cancer, regularly monitoring for symptoms and bringing any health changes, big or small, to your doctor’s attention may help detect and treat the disease as early as possible.

For upcoming webinars visit www.TexasOncologyFoundation.org.