PHILADELPHIA (November 1, 2016) – This November, Fox Chase Cancer Center is observing National Lung Cancer Awareness Month. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), lung cancer is the second most common cancer in both men and women. It is by far the leading cause of cancer death, with 1 out of 4 cancer deaths from lung cancer. More people die every year of lung cancer than of colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined.
Smoking is unquestionably the number-one risk factor for lung cancer. According to the ACS, approximately 80% of lung cancer deaths are thought to result from smoking. The longer you smoke and more packs per day you smoke, the greater your risk. “The most important recommendation I can make is to quit smoking – no matter what your age or how long you’ve smoked – or not start the habit at all, whether it’s cigarettes, cigars or pipes,” said Hossein Borghaei, DO, chief of thoracic medical oncology and director of lung cancer risk assessment at Fox Chase.
Secondhand smoke, where you breathe in the smoke of others, can also increase your risk of lung cancer. More than 7,000 lung cancer deaths per year are caused by secondhand smoke, according to the ACS.
Other risk factors of lung cancer include exposure to environmental substances, such as radon, asbestos, and diesel exhaust; age; personal history of lung disease, such as emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, (COPD); and family history of lung cancer.
Symptoms of Lung Cancer
Symptoms of lung cancer vary. While some individuals have symptoms related to the lungs, others may have symptoms specific to a part of the body where their lung cancer has spread, or metastasized.
- Coughing that gets worse or doesn’t go away
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath, wheezing or hoarseness
- Coughing up blood
- Feeling very tired all the time
- Weight loss with no known cause
- Repeated respiratory infections, including pneumonia and bronchitis
“Symptoms of lung cancer typically don’t appear until the disease is at an advanced stage,” said Borghaei. “In fact, many lung cancers are diagnosed when a patient receives a chest X-ray or other test for an unrelated medical condition.”
The only recommended screening test for lung cancer is low-dose computed tomography (low-dose CT scan, or LDCT). “We generally recommend lung cancer screening only for adults who have no symptoms but who are at high risk for developing the disease because of their smoking history and age,” said Borghaei. The ACS has set specific guidelines for lung cancer screening. It states that all patients should be asked about their smoking history. Those who meet all of the following criteria below may be candidates for screening:
- 55 to 74 years old
- No symptoms of lung cancer
- Have at least a 30 pack per year smoking history
- Are either still smoking or have quit smoking within the last 15 years
The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) makes a similar recommendation, with the only difference being in the age individuals should be screened. The USPSTF recommends screening for people ages 55 to 79.
“Only a patient and his or her doctor can determine if screening is the right choice,” said Borghaei. “In regard to lung cancer, there continues to be significant exciting research focused on developing effective screening methods and developing targeted therapies to treat patients who have been diagnosed with this disease.”
Fox Chase offers a Risk Assessment Program for individuals and families concerned about their risk for certain types of cancer. To learn more, visit FoxChase.org.