RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Lung cancer is the leading cancer killer in both men and women and has the lowest five years survival rates of any cancer type. November is National Lung Cancer Awareness Month.
Nearly 425,000 Americans are living with lung cancer and almost half die within one year of diagnosis. It is expected that nearly 150,000 Americans will die from lung cancer this year.
1. What are the risk factors for lung cancer?
Common risk factors include smoking, radon exposure (second most common cause), other toxic chemical exposures, genetics (family history).
2. How is lung cancer diagnosed? What are the symptoms?
Many people with lung cancer do not have symptoms until the late stages of the disease. When symptoms occur they include cough, chest pain, coughing up blood, shortness of breath and frequent lung infections. Lung cancer is most often diagnosed through a combination of imaging (CT scan, PET scan, etc.) as well as bronchoscopy/biopsy. In bronchoscopy, a light is taken into the lung and tissue is obtained. The tissue/cells are examined under a microscope to help diagnose the cancer. In some cases, a surgeon will do a lung biopsy for diagnosis.
3. How is lung cancer treated?
Treatment is based on the type and stage of your lung cancer. Your physician will likely individualize your therapy. Some cancers are treated with surgery, others with chemotherapy and others with radiation. Many treatment plans involve all three treatments. There are also many ongoing clinical trials that are designed to find better treatments. You and your doctor can determine if a trial is right for you.
4. How can we prevent lung cancer?
Don’t smoke, test your home for radon, avoid toxic chemical exposures (asbestos) and avoid air pollution when possible. Screening is controversial—there is no one perfect screening test. Some studies have shown that low dose CT scans are effective as a screening tool. The earlier we diagnose lung cancer the better chances are of survival.