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Smoking and Your Lung Health – It’s Worth Quitting For

November 01, 2021

“Quitting smoking is easy. I’ve done it hundreds of times.”

You may have heard that old joke before. But there’s nothing funny about the real dangers of not giving up the deadly, addictive habit of smoking. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) reports nearly 70 percent of current adult smokers prior to the COVID-19 pandemic have said they wanted to quit.

Compound the addictiveness of nicotine with managing the stresses of life during COVID-19 and it appears the trend is moving in the wrong direction. The North American Quitline Consortium reported up to a 39 percent decrease in volume of calls seeking help in quitting smoking during 2020 compared to 2019.

The stubborn truth about lung cancer is that it remains the deadliest cancer in Texas and the United States. Smokers are around 25 times more likely to develop lung cancer. November, Lung Cancer Awareness Month, is the right time to learn more about the risks of lung cancer – even if you don’t smoke – and get the support you need to prioritize your lung health.

Know the Risk Factors

While smoking is the most important risk factor for lung cancer, there are others:

  • Breathing in secondhand smoke can increase your risk of lung cancer.
  • People with a parent or sibling who had lung cancer have a higher-than-average risk, even if they are nonsmokers.
  • People who live or work in certain conditions where they are exposed to substances like radioactive gas, asbestos, arsenic, or radon, have an increased risk of developing cancer. In fact, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. Some homes are built on soil that can create high levels of indoor radon exposure. Use radon detection kits and EPA-suggested companies to test your home for radon.

Ask Your Physician About Getting Screened

Lung cancer is treatable and often preventable, but frequently diagnosed at later stages when it is more difficult to treat. That’s why screening for lung cancer is so important. People ages 50 to 80 with a history of heavy smoking, who smoke now or who quit within the past 15 years, and who have a 20 pack per year smoking history should consider a yearly low-dose CT scan to screen for lung cancer.

While the symptoms for lung cancer vary, common symptoms include chest pain made worse with deeper breathing, coughing, or laughing; coughing up blood, phlegm, or a persistent cough; and hoarseness or breathing trouble.

If you are a current or former smoker, or are experiencing any of these symptoms, talk with your physician about whether you should be screened for lung cancer.

Smoking and COVID-19

According to the FDA, cigarette smoking increases the risk of more serious illness from COVID-19. Because smoking can weaken your immune system and cause inflammation and damage to cells in your body, you are less able to fight against diseases like COVID-19.

Quitting smoking at any age helps lower your risk of lung cancer and is the single most important thing you can do to prevent cancer. If you are ready to quit smoking, talk to your primary care physician, invite loved ones to support you in kicking the habit, and check out resources like the Quitline, a hotline supported by the Texas Department of State Health Services, at 1-877-937-7848.

Quitting smoking is rarely easy to do. But that’s true of many of the most worthwhile things in life. Every step you take to protect your lung health is a step in the right direction.

For upcoming webinars visit www.TexasOncologyFoundation.org.