Did you know that lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States? In fact, with 437 deaths every day because of it, lung cancer accounts for one out of every three cancer deaths, and it will kill nearly twice as many woman as breast cancer. Here is what you need to know.
Many people associate lung cancer with smokers. And while it’s true that the majority of lung cancer is associated with smoking, over 60% of new cases are never smokers or former smokers who may have quit decades ago, and one in five women and one in twelve men diagnosed with lung cancer have never smoked.
In the past four decades many cancers have seen their five-year survival rates increase as a result of more research, treatments, screening and diagnostic tools, but lung cancer has not seen much of an advance. In 1971 its five year survival rate was only 13.2%; today it is just 15%.
According to the Lung Cancer Alliance, here are the risks you need to know:
Smoking. The lung cells of smokers go through changes that can lead to lung cancer. The longer people have been smoking, and the more packs per day they smoked, the greater their risk is of developing lung cancer. Former smokers are also at elevated risk for lung cancer.
Radon. People exposed to this radioactive gas that can be in houses, are at increased risk of lung cancer.
Asbestos. People who work with asbestos also have a higher risk of getting lung cancer and another form of cancer called mesothelioma, which can affect the lining of the lungs and stomach.
In addition, certain cancer-causing agents in the environment, aging, lung scarring from some types of pneumonia and a family history (even if you have never smoked) can increase your odds of getting this cancer.
Many people with lung cancer have no symptoms until the disease has advanced into late stages, but when it does cause symptoms, they can include the following:
* Coughing (most common)
* Shortness of breath (dyspnea)
* Pain in the chest, shoulder, upper back, or arm
* Coughing up blood (hemoptysis)
* Repeated pneumonia or bronchitis
* Loss of appetite (anorexia) and weight loss
* General pain
* Swelling of face or neck
* Pleural effusion (excess fluid in the lungs)