Answering Lung Cancer Questions | Learn About Lung Cancer
When compared to other cancers, lung cancer is seemingly unknown. It is often associated with smoking and considered to be very deadly, but few people know anything further than that about the disease.
Lung cancer is the number one cancer killer, killing more than 160,000 people in the United States alone each year. That is equal to the population of Dayton, OH, killed each year by this deadly disease . Despite this, in the United States, lung cancer receives just $1,200 of federal funding per death, while breast cancer receives more than $27,000 per death, followed by $14,000 for prostate cancer and $6,500 for colon cancer.
There is a lack of awareness when it comes to lung cancer, as seen by the lack of funding. As a result, there are a lot of basic questions about lung cancer that people just don’t ask. In this post, we would like to revisit some of those common questions that we’ve touched on in the past, in hopes of raising more awareness about the disease.
- What is lung cancer? Lung cancer occurs when malignant tumors form in the tissue of the lung. The lungs are a pair of sponge-like organs. The right lung has three sections, called lobes, and is larger than the left lung, which has two lobes.
- What are the risk factors for lung cancer? The CDC reports that smoking tobacco is the major risk factor for lung cancer. In the U.S., about 90% of lung cancer deaths in men and almost 80% of lung cancer deaths in women are due to smoking. Secondhand smoke is also linked to lung cancer. It accounts for about 3,000 known lung cancer deaths per year. Other risk factors for this cancer are exposure to asbestos and radon gas and a family history of lung cancer.
- What are the different types of lung cancer? There are two main types of lung cancer: non-small-cell lung cancer and small-cell lung cancer. Non-small-cell lung cancer accounts for about 80% of lung cancers. They include a heterogeneous group of cancers that grow and spread less rapidly than small-cell lung cancer. By contrast, small-cell lung cancer accounts for 20% of all lung cancers. Although the cells are small, they multiply quickly and form large tumors that can spread throughout the body. Smoking is almost always the cause of small-cell lung cancer.
- What are some of the symptoms or signs of lung cancer? The possible signs of lung cancer are:
- a cough that doesn't go away and gets worse over time
- constant chest pain
- coughing up blood
- shortness of breath, wheezing, or hoarseness
- repeated problems with pneumonia or bronchitis
- swelling of the neck and face
- loss of appetite or weight loss
- Can second-hand smoke cause a non-smoker to get lung cancer? Some studies suggest that non-smokers who are exposed to environmental tobacco smoke, also called secondhand smoke, are at increased risk of lung cancer. Secondhand smoke is the smoke that non-smokers are exposed to when they share air space with someone who is smoking. Each year, about 3,000 non-smoking adults die of lung cancer as a result of breathing secondhand smoke.
- Can lung cancer be prevented? The best way to prevent lung cancer is to avoid smoking and to avoid breathing in other people's smoke. If you smoke, quit. While the risk for former smokers remains elevated when compared to a nonsmoker, it continues to fall with each year of smoking cessation. In fact, after quitting for 10 years, an ex-smoker reduces their risk anywhere from 30% to 50%. There is little evidence that eating a healthy diet can prevent lung cancer, although there are many other benefits. There have been many attempts to reduce the risk of lung cancer in current or former smokers by giving them high doses of vitamins or vitamin-like drugs, but none of these trials have worked out favorably. In one study, a nutrient related to vitamin A called beta-carotene actually increased the rate of lung cancer, so it's back to the drawing board!
We encourage you to visit our lung cancer risk assessment to see if you or a loved one are at an increased risk. You can also learn about lung cancer symptoms here in case you have current concerns about a potential symptom you or a loved one are experiencing.
Detecting lung cancer as early as possible is the key to increasing the 5-year survival rate. Instead of thinking of that knowledge as a burden or as a negative weight hanging over your head, it should be seen as an opportunity—an opportunity to detect the number one cancer killer when a tumor may be smaller and localized and thus the survival rate may be greater and you have the best possible chance of defeating the disease.
To learn more about EarlyCDT-Lung, a blood test for early lung cancer detection, click here.
If you are a lung cancer survivor or if you have a loved one who battled lung cancer, visit our Lung Cancer Awareness Wall to memorialize and honor his or her personal fight against lung cancer.