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Spot the signs of Lung CancerBy Dr. Costanzo DiPerna
Lung cancer is the second most common cancer among men and women (not counting skin cancer), accounting for about 13% of all new cancer diagnoses. Lung cancer is by far the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women: Each year more people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast and prostate cancers combined.
By far the greatest risk factor for lung cancer is a history of smoking. At least 80% of lung cancer deaths are believe to result from smoking. The longer you smoke and the more cigarettes you smoke a day, the greater your risk for lung cancer is. Sadly, secondhand smoke is also directly correlated to lung cancer risk. Breathing in the smoke of others can increase your risk of developing lung cancer by almost 30%. Second hand smoke is believed to cause more than 7,000 deaths from lung cancer every year.
However, it is important to know that while people who smoke (or did smoke) have a higher risk than non-smokers, lung cancer can and does affect non-smokers as well. Other risk factors for lung cancer include:
- Exposure to radon or asbestos
- Workplace carcinogens including radioactive ores such as uranium; inhaled chemicals or minerals; diesel exhaust
- Air pollution
- Radiation therapy to the lungs (most common in people previously treated for lung cancer)
- Arsenic in drinking water
- Personal or family history of lung cancer
It is important to watch for the following symptoms in yourself and your loved ones, particularly if there is a history of smoking or exposure to second hand smoke.
The most common symptoms are:
- A cough that does not go away or gets worse
- Chest pain that is often worse with deep breathing, coughing or laughing
- Weight loss and loss of appetite
- Coughing up blood or rust-colored sputum
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling tired or weak
- Infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia that don't go away or keep coming back
- New onset of wheezing
- Age: 55-74 with no signs or symptoms of lung cancer
- Smoking history: Active or former smoker with a 30-pack year history (equivalent of one pack per day, per year.)
- Active smoker: If you are an active smoker, we urge you to enter a smoking cessation program
- Former smoker: If you are a former smoker, you must have quite within the past 15 years.
To learn more about the screening program and whether you or your loved one qualify, please call the Dignity Health Lung Evaluation Clinic at 916.536.3665.