November is National Lung Cancer Awareness Month

lung cancer awareness

In recognition of November as National Lung Cancer Awareness Month, we will provide an overview of the disease, discuss symptoms and risk factors, and most importantly, explain how lung cancer screening finds cancer at an early stage, when it may be easier to treat.

What is Lung Cancer?

Lung cancer, as the name implies, is a type of cancer that originates in the lungs. It is the second most common cancer in both men and women. Lung cancer is by far the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women, making up almost 25% of all cancer deaths. Each year, more people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined.

Lung cancer mainly occurs in older people. Most people diagnosed with lung cancer are 65 or older; a very small number of people diagnosed are younger than 45. The average age of people when diagnosed is about 70.

Overall, the chance that a man will develop lung cancer in his lifetime is about 1 in 15; for a woman, the risk is about 1 in 17. These numbers include both smokers and non-smokers. For smokers the risk is much higher, while for non-smokers the risk is lower.

The American Cancer Society's estimates for lung cancer in the United States for 2020 are:

  • About 228,820 new cases of lung cancer (116,300 in men and 112,520 in women)
  • About 135,720 deaths from lung cancer (72,500 in men and 63,220 in women)

On a positive note, the number of new lung cancer cases has been steadily decreasing for several years, partly because people are quitting smoking. Also, the number of deaths from lung cancer continues to drop due to advances in early detection and treatment. One of the most effective methods of early detection is lung cancer screening.

Screening is looking for cancer before you have any symptoms, which can help find cancer at an early stage, increasing the chance for survival and recovery. Lung cancer screening finds 80 percent of lung cancer at an early stage when it is more curable. Without screening, 70 percent of lung cancers are found at a later stage when there is little chance for a cure. A recent nationwide trial showed low-dose spiral computed tomography (LDCT) scans are better than chest x-rays at finding early-stage lung cancer. Screening for lung cancer is similar to other screening tests, like mammograms and colonoscopies. The first step is finding out if you meet the high-risk criteria for screening. The criteria are based on your age, smoking history, and additional risk factors.

If you are a current or former smoker between the ages of 55 to 77, you may benefit from a screening offered by one of Summit's four Diagnostic Imaging Centers. Medicare and most insurance carriers cover this screening at 100 percent. If you need help quitting smoking, we also offers free smoking cessation classes. Call 865-212-2281 for more information.