November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, a national campaign dedicated to increasing awareness of the disease, its causes, treatments and prevention. Each year, 200,000 people are diagnosed with lung cancer, and 150,000 die from it. More people die from lung cancer each year than from breast, prostate, colon and pancreas cancers combined. This alarming statistic is what brought about the need for increased awareness, and a Lung Cancer Awareness Month. In honor of this event, Medical Scrubs Mall has decided to talk about the disease, and how we can work as a community to aid those suffering from it. Here are some risk factors for lung cancer, as well as some lung cancer prevention tips:
- Smoking – if you’re a smoker, it’s time to quit. Cigarettes are the number 1 risk factor in lung cancer patients. In fact, almost 87% of all lung cancers in the U.S. are smoking-related.
- Secondhand smoke – if someone in your household or someone you spend a lot of time with is a smoker, help them wean off of them, find a smokeless tobacco substitute, or be sure not to be around them when they are smoking. Secondhand smoke increases your risk of developing lung cancer by 20-30%.
- Cancer-causing substances around the home or at work – have your home or workplace tested for radon, asbestos and ionizing radiation, and take corrective actions if high levels of the substances are found.
- Medical exposure to radiation to the chest – X-rays to the chest can increase your risk of lung cancer, but that risk is increased if you are a smoker. Be wary when getting x-rays, and ask your doctor for alternatives if the x-ray is not absolutely necessary.
- Chronic lung disease – Emphysema, chronic bronchitis or tuberculosis can all lead to lung cancer, so be sure to see your doctor for immediate treatment if you think you may be showing symptoms of any of these diseases.
The symptoms of lung cancer vary from person to person, but some of the most common are as follows:
- Shortness of breath
- Coughing that doesn’t go away
- Coughing up blood
- Chest pain
- Repeated respiratory infections (such as bronchitis or pneumonia)
These symptoms can be from other illnesses as well, so if you are showing these, talk to your doctor immediately for treatment. Depending on your level of lung cancer, how far it has spread and your age, doctors may try several different types of treatment.
- Surgery – if there is a tumor putting pressure on the lung, surgery may be an option, though if the cancer has spread, this may not solve the problem completely.
- Chemotherapy – as with other cancers, this is always an option, but can take a toll on the body and mind, so age may be a factor of whether or not this route is viable.
- Radiation – like chemotherapy, age could restrict some patients from receiving radiation.
- Clinical trials – clinical trials study new potential treatment options, so, if your doctor does not think the other options will work, or if they were already tried and did not succeed, he or she may recommend a clinical trial to find a better treatment option.
Spreading awareness of this disease is what this month is all about, and there are many organizations whose mission is to do just that. One such organization is LungCancer.org, who sponsors events and activities in order to raise awareness as well as funds for research for a cure. The Lung Cancer Walk for Hope took place on November 6 in New York, and raised over $237,000 for the cause. Events such as this one are bringing us that much closer to a cure for lung cancer, and hopefully someday soon we can say goodbye to this horrible disease forever.