Bon Secours Lung and Chest Program

frequently asked questions

how common is lung cancer?
what is lung cancer?
what causes lung cancer?
what are the symptoms of lung cancer?
are there really differences in lung cancer between men and women?
why do so many people die of lung cancer each year?
am I at risk of developing lung cancer?
what tests can be done to check for lung cancer?
why is early lung cancer screening important?
I still have questions. how can I contact someone to answer them?

how common is lung cancer?
Lung cancer kills approximately 160,000 people in the United States each year—more people than breast, colon, and prostate cancers combined. It is responsible for over a quarter of all cancer-related deaths in the U.S. each year.

what is lung cancer?
The short answer to that question is that lung cancer is an abnormal growth of cells in the lungs, that may eventually spread to the rest of the body if not discovered and treated early

what causes lung cancer?
The most significant cause of lung cancer is cigarette smoke. Other possible causes include environmental exposure to asbestos, uranium, or other carcinogens, or genetics.

what are the symptoms of lung cancer?
Lung cancer can have a variety of symptoms including coughing or wheezing, shortness of breath, recurring respiratory infections, and more. It is important to remember that symptoms rarely occur until the later stage of lung cancer, when cure is far less likely.

are there really differences in lung cancer between men and women?
Lung cancer is often perceived as a man’s disease, but in fact it is also an extremely common and lethal cancer in women. In contrast to the mortality (death) rate in men, which began declining more than 20 years ago, women’s lung cancer mortality rates have been rising for decades, only just recently beginning to stabilize. Women often incorrectly perceive breast cancer as a bigger risk to their lives than lung cancer, even though lung cancer kills many more women. Without knowing their risks of lung cancer, people may not take the appropriate measures (e.g. smoking cessation, follow-up of symptoms) needed to diagnose the disease when the cancer is less advanced.

why do so many people die of lung cancer each year?
Lung cancer is a very common disease – approximately 219,000 people each year in the United States will be diagnosed with it. It is also a very lethal disease – roughly 85% of people who are diagnosed with lung cancer will die of it within five years of their initial diagnosis. This is in stark contrast to diseases such as breast and colon cancer, where one-quarter to one-third of all patients will die from their disease within five years. In addition, lung cancer patients tend to be diagnosed at a later stage (with more advanced disease) than do patients with many other types of cancer. For example, more than three-quarters of lung cancer patients are diagnosed after their disease has spread to other parts of their body, compared to one-half of breast cancer patients.

am I at risk of developing lung cancer?
You are at risk if you are or have ever been a smoker. The risk increases with age, and with how much you have smoked in your lifetime. Other risk factors include exposure to environmental carcinogens, such as asbestos, or lung scarring.

Several factors contribute to lung cancer risk: age; smoking history; environmental exposure to carcinogens like asbestos, beryllium, uranium, or radon; and exposure to secondhand smoke. The older you are, and the more you've smoked or been exposed to smoke and other carcinogens, the higher your risk will be.

what tests can be done to check for lung cancer?
There are a number of tests that can be used to detect lung cancer; however, most tests miss many early cancers, and are often ordered only after the patient has started having symptoms. Traditional lung cancer tests include chest x-ray, sputum cytology (analyzing cells in mucus), and bronchoscopy (using a tube through the nose to look at the lungs with a tiny camera).

Based on our research, we recommend using CT scans to screen people at risk of developing lung cancer. CT scans can find very small, early lung cancers, which gives doctors a much better chance of curing them.

why is early lung cancer screening important?
Because lung cancer has no symptoms in its early stages, more than 85 percent of the men and women who are diagnosed with lung cancer today are diagnosed in a late stage, after symptoms occur and when there is very little chance of cure. As a result, approximately 95% of the 173,000 people diagnosed each year die from the disease.

With early detection, 85 percent of cancers can be found in the earliest, most curable stage. The latest research  shows that patients diagnosed with lung cancer as a result of annual CT screening have an estimated cure rate of 80%, regardless of stage and type of treatment.

It is already well-known that small, early-stage lung cancers are much more curable than those found in later stages. Work by other researchers has reported cure rates of 90% or more for small, early-stage lung cancers.

I still have questions. how can I contact someone to answer them?
Your primary care physician can be a great source of information about lung cancer. If you don't have a doctor currently, find a primary care physician. You can also ask a question or learn more about cancer care news atour BS757 Blog!

Additional Resources

(Source: International Early Lung Cancer Action Program and National Lung Cancer Partnership)

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