Understand Your Risk for Lung Cancer
November 1, 2022
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths among men and women in the United States. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, 80% to 90% of lung cancer cases are attributed to cigarette smoking, while the remaining cases are caused by other factors. Anyone can develop lung cancer, even those who have never smoked.
November’s Lung Cancer Awareness Month is a good time to assess your lung cancer risk, make a plan to stop smoking or reduce second-hand exposure and schedule an appointment with your medical provider if you are experiencing symptoms of lung disease.
Risk Factors for Lung Cancer
Cigarette smoking is the number one cause of lung cancer. For former smokers, this risk is greatly reduced but not eliminated. People who smoke pipes and cigars, as well as those who are exposed to secondhand smoke, are also at greater risk than nonsmokers.
Exposure to radon gas is the second-leading cause of lung cancer. It is a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas that enters homes and buildings from the ground through cracks and gaps in the foundation. Learn where to find an inexpensive radon test kit and how to mitigate (fix) your home if you discover elevated radon levels at EPA.gov/radon www.epa.gov/radon.
Exposure to asbestos, arsenic, uranium, cadmium, chromium, nickel, and even some petroleum products can increase your risk.
Pollution from nearby manufacturing, fuel-burning electric utilities, and busy highways are just some of the sources of air pollution that can increase your risk of lung cancer.
A family history of lung cancer could mean you are at a greater risk of developing the disease.
Check in with Your Lung Health
Discovering lung cancer in its earliest stages is often accidental, a result of tests performed for other health reasons before a patient experiences symptoms of lung cancer. If you are experiencing more than one of the following symptoms, take action. Occurring together, these could be symptoms of lung cancer past the earliest stage. Schedule an appointment swmconline.com/schedule with one of our physicians to discuss your symptoms.
This cough has persisted for more than eight weeks, won’t go away, or even worsens.
Mucus helps to clear irritants from the lungs but producing too much mucus for a month or longer could indicate a health problem. If mucus is rust-colored or blood is present, see a doctor immediately.
Shortness of Breath
Struggling to catch your breath while at rest or after completing exercise is not a normal sign of aging. Shortness of breath that does not go away is a sign of a medical problem.
Changes in your voice — sounding hoarse, raspy, or high-pitched — could be a symptom of cancer affecting the vocal cords.
Chronic chest pain
Chest pain that has lasted a month or longer and worsens when laughing, coughing, or taking a deep breath could indicate blockages in the lungs, enlarged lymph nodes, or excess fluid.
Lung Cancer Screening with Low-Dose CT
Because fewer than one in seven lung cancer cases are detected in the disease’s earliest stage when it is most treatable, insurance plans now cover low-dose CT lung cancer screening for patients who qualify. If you are over the age of 50 and have no symptoms, but you are at risk for lung cancer due to a history of smoking or other factors, we can help. Take our free online lung health assessment to help determine if a lung screen or further evaluation of your risk may be beneficial swmconline.com/radiology/lung-cancer-screening
Are You Ready to Quit Smoking?
Quitting smoking has immediate and long-term health benefits. Today is always a good day to quit, but you can increase your chances for success with a plan to manage everyday stress and nicotine cravings and a support system of friends, loved ones and medical providers who know you’re trying to quit. Visit okhelpline.com/ for more information and helpful tips.
This November, check in with your lung health, test your home for radon, adopt healthier habits with a support system, and see your medical provider if you have symptoms of lung disease.