Spot the Signs of Lung Cancer

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Spot the signs of Lung Cancer

By 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
Unfortunately, symptoms of lung cancer typically do not appear until the disease is already in an advanced state. Contributing to this problem is the fact that many people confuse the symptoms for other problems - including infection, viral illness or simply the effects of smoking.

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
  • Hoarseness
  • 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
While most likely these symptoms have some other, non-cancer related cause, it is important to discuss them with your doctor and work together to find the root cause. As with many things in medical care, the sooner you begin treatment of the cause, the more likely that treatment is to be successful. At Dignity Health, because we take early diagnosis seriously we opened the first and only dedicated lung evaluation clinic. The Dignity Health Lung Evaluation Clinic follows the National Comprehensive Cancer Network's guidelines for lung screening and recommends screening. If you meet all of the following criteria:
  • 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.

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Help Your Pet Through the Holidays

The holidays are a time of joy, peace and love - unless of course you are four-legged, furry and prone to eating things you shouldn't. The holiday season can be difficult and even dangerous for family pets, thanks to the influx of toxic foods and d?r and the increase in visitors to the family home.

Here are a few tips from the SPCA to help your family pet survive the holidays!

  • Tinsel-less Town:Kitties love this sparkly, light-catching "toy" that's easy to bat around and carry in their mouths. But a nibble can lead to a swallow, which can lead to an obstructed digestive tract, severe vomiting, dehydration and possible surgery. It's best to brighten your boughs with something other than tinsel.
  • No Feasting for the Furries:By now you know not to feed your pets chocolate and anything sweetened with xylitol, but do you know the lengths to which an enterprising fur kid will go to chomp on something yummy? Make sure to keep your pets away from the table and unattended plates of food, and be sure to secure the lids on garbage cans.
  • Toy Joy:Looking to stuff your pet's stockings? Choose gifts that are safe. Dogs have been known to tear their toys apart and swallowing the pieces, which can then become lodged in the esophagus, stomach or intestines. Stick with chew toys that are basically indestructible, Kongs that can be stuffed with healthy foods or chew treats that are designed to be safely digestible. Long, stringy things are a feline's dream, but the most risky toys for cats involve ribbon, yarn and loose little parts that can get stuck in the intestines, often necessitating surgery. Surprise kitty with a new ball that's too big to swallow, a stuffed catnip toy or the interactive cat dancer?and tons of play sessions together.
  • Forget the Mistletoe & Holly: Holly, when ingested, can cause pets to suffer nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Mistletoe can cause gastrointestinal upset and cardiovascular problems. And many varieties of lilies, can cause kidney failure in cats if ingested. Opt for just-as-jolly artificial plants made from silk or plastic, or choose a pet-safe bouquet.
  • Leave the Leftovers: Fatty, spicy and no-no human foods, as well as bones, should not be fed to your furry friends. Pets can join the festivities in other fun ways that won't lead to costly medical bills.
  • That Holiday Glow: Don't leave lighted candles unattended. Pets may burn themselves or cause a fire if they knock candles over. Be sure to use appropriate candle holders, placed on a stable surface. And if you leave the room, put the candle out!
  • Wired Up: Keep wires, batteries and glass or plastic ornaments out of paws' reach. A wire can deliver a potentially lethal electrical shock and a punctured battery can cause burns to the mouth and esophagus, while shards of breakable ornaments can damage your pet's mouth.
  • A Room of Their Own: Give your pet his own quiet space to retreat to-complete with fresh water and a place to snuggle. Shy pups and cats might want to hide out under a piece of furniture, in their carrying case or in a separate room away from the hubbub.
  • New Year's Noise: As you count down to the new year, please keep in mind that strings of thrown confetti can get lodged in a cat's intestines, if ingested, perhaps necessitating surgery. Noisy poppers can terrify pets and cause possible damage to sensitive ears.

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