August 1 is World Lung Cancer Day. With World Lung Cancer Day fast approaching, it’s time to bring awareness to the most frequently diagnosed cancer. According to the World Health Organization, lung cancer contributes to 20% of all cancer related deaths and, in 2020, caused 1.80 million deaths. Smoking accounts for 80% of those deaths, but there are other contributing factors to be aware of.
Causes of lung cancer
Environmental pollutants, exposure to asbestos and radon, and genetics can all increase your risk of lung cancer. There is no way to prevent lung cancer altogether, but up to 50% of all cancers can be prevented by avoiding risks like smoking and second-hand smoke, excessive alcohol consumption, and exposure to harmful environmental pollutions.
Maintaining your dietary and physical health, seeking regular cancer screenings, and avoiding or quitting cigarette smoking can all help to reduce your risk for developing lung cancer.
What is Lung Cancer?
Put simply, cancer is a disease in which the body’s cell renewal process is disrupted, causing dying or abnormal cells to divide uncontrollably and infect various areas of the body. Cancers of other kinds can spread to the lungs, but lung cancer is specific to cancerous cells originating from the lungs. Unfortunately, it is not limited to this organ and can spread to other parts of the body, such as the lymph nodes and the brain.
There are two forms of lung cancer: small cell lung cancer (SCLC), and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). SCLC is almost exclusively linked to cigarette smoking. NSCLC is more common, making up 80% of lung cancer diagnoses, and the rate of infection is generally slower. There are subtypes to both of these lung cancers and treatment varies, depending upon which lung cancer is present.
Statistically, 6.6% of men and 5.8% of women will suffer from lung cancer in their lifetime. Even though lung cancer rates have fallen in both men and women, the mortality rate is expected to increase to 2.45 million all over the world, contributing to an estimated 39% rise from 2018 to 2030. Early diagnosis and prevention are both vital to treatment success.
Signs & Symptoms
Lung cancer can be recognized by
- A worsening or prolonged cough
- Pain in the chest
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Unexplained weight loss
Unfortunately, lung cancer is difficult to diagnose before symptoms appear, so it can spread to other parts of the body undetected. Cancerous tumors form in the lungs and can shed damaged and abnormal cells through the blood stream and lymph nodes, infecting vital systems and organs.
Reducing the risk of lung cancer
The number one way to reduce your risk of lung cancer, especially SCLC, is quitting or avoiding all forms of tobacco use, including pipes, cigars, and e-cigarettes. Cigarette smoking is associated with at least 80% of lung cancer deaths in America.
Second-hand smoke has been shown to increase your risk of lung cancer by 20-30% and contributes to 7,300 non-smoker lung cancer deaths in the United States, according to the CDC. Furthermore, second-hand smoke can increase the risk of SIDS, sudden infant death syndrome, in newborns.
Radon also poses an increased risk of developing lung cancer. The EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, advises that all homes be tested for radon. Radon is a naturally occurring gas that forms when uranium, thorium, or radium breaks down in natural substances – like soil and groundwater. It can infiltrate your house through cracks or holes in your foundation, and retain it. No matter how old or new your home is, radon can still make its way in and have detrimental effects to your health.
Screening and Early Detection
Early diagnosis and treatment can drastically improve mortality rates in lung cancer. Finding cancer early through regular screening can prevent cancerous cells from spreading throughout the body, thus making treatment more effective. MANA offers complimentary CT lung cancer screening for those that meet the qualifications.
If you are experiencing any symptoms of lung cancer, or you are an active smoker over the age of 65, you should talk to your doctor about which cancer screenings could be to you. Lung cancer cases and mortality rates are steadily decreasing due to an increased number of people quitting smoking, medical advances in treatment, and early detection practices.
Unfortunately, anyone can become a victim of lung cancer. Take control of your health today by quitting smoking and talking to your doctor about the risks of lung cancer and benefits of regular cancer screenings.