Due to some great efforts by the American Lung Association and similar health organization over the last few decades, people have generally accepted the connection between lung cancer and cigarette smoking.

Although this has been significant to society and has helped push down rates of smoking and cancer, there’s still more education and awareness that’s needed about this type of cancer.

For one thing, word needs to spread that it isn’t just smokers who can be diagnosed with lung cancers. Some people who have been smoking for years don’t have any health problems, and some people who have never taken a puff in their life may be diagnosed with some types of lung cancer. Environmental conditions may contribute to an increased cancer risk, and there are other factors as well.

Various health organizations encourage people to learn about lung cancer, especially some of the risk factors. After all, with many cancers, prevention is key, as well as early treatment. The sooner treatment can begin the higher the survival rate. The opposite is true too: if cancer is discovered when it’s already advanced, the likelihood of beating it is slimmer.

With lung cancer, there are some possible indicators that this cancer may be present. Even though some symptoms might be unrelated – a cough, for instance can be a sign of many health conditions – when added together with other common symptoms, it may encourage a provider to want to look in the direction of lung cancer or other cancers.

General education is vital.

Cancer info

According to the American Cancer Society, lung cancer is the second most-common cancer for men and women, and the leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. About 1 in 5 cancer deaths are due to some type of lung cancer.

Prostate cancer is still the most common cancer for men, and breast cancer is the most common for women, but both of these have a lower mortality rate.

Recent data shows that there are 127,070 deaths from lung cancer, including 59,910 women and 67,160 men, and about 238,340 cases diagnosed each year.

Any age can be diagnosed with lung cancer but it is more common for older people – the average age for diagnosis is 70.

Smoking does play a role: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that it is a factor in about 80 percent of lung cancers. It also develops in about 20 percent of smokers. Smokers are also likely to increase their risk of other cancers in the body, not just the lungs.

That still leaves other non-smokers or past smokers: research into smoking has shown that one’s risk increases after each cigarette, but the longer someone goes without smoking, the more their overall health improves.

Even if someone doesn’t directly smoke but spends time near smokers, they can still be susceptible to health risks. This can include everything from being in a car with someone who smokes to having a roommate or co-worker who smokes indoors.

Other risk factors include family history of lung cancer and cancer in general, plus overall physical and mental health. Being around carcinogens can also increase the risk, everything from being part of a fire crew that deals with smoke regularly to heavy metal contamination. Radon, a clear, invisible gas, also may increase the risk of cancer.

Diet also plays a role, especially since a healthier diet can have all sorts of benefits, and an unhealthy diet can include various carcinogens or artificial flavorings and colors.

Cancer signs to look for

Some people may feel fine and still be diagnosed with lung cancer. Others may begin to show some of the possible symptoms, including:

  • A chronic cough that doesn’t seem to improve.
  • Increasing amounts of frequencies having difficulty catching one’s breath. 
  • Chest pain
  • Coughing up blood, even in small amounts
  • Increased fatigue
  • Increased headaches
  • Rapid weight loss

Providers are encouraged to be familiar with these different symptoms, and then consider various testing methods, including the LDCT screening.

Whether or not cancer is formally detected, a provider also can share tips about methods to stop smoking since doing so can boost health dramatically.

One option for non-smokers includes gum, which a provider can prescribe.

Learning more

Fall is a good time to start increasing what you know about lung cancer. People are heading inside more now that summer is over and may have more time on their hands.

The month of November has been designated Lung Cancer Awareness Month, an annual observance that was made official in 2022.

It’s a time where everyone is encouraged to learn more about what the condition is, and how to get assistance if they need it, or what sort of preventative methods are available.

This year’s theme of the Lung Initiative is “Hope,” and invites people to give what they can to promote further efforts into cures.

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