By: Laura Gros, RN, CBCN, Patient Care Coordinator, Thibodaux Regional
November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. While smoking is the leading cause
of lung cancer, anyone can get the disease. Exposure to environmental
toxins, lifestyle factors, family history and age also present risks.
It is important to know your risks and what you can do to keep your lungs healthy.
Fact: Smoking is a major risk factor for lung cancer.
More people die in the US and worldwide of lung cancer than any other disease.
Cigarette smoking is linked to approximately 80% to 90% of lung cancer
deaths. Other tobacco products also increase risks. Tobacco smoke contains
more than 7,000 chemicals, 70 of which are known to cause cancer.
Fact: Many other factors increase lung cancer risks.
- Exposure to second-hand smoke
- Aging—about half of people with lung cancer are over 71 years old
- Having had lymphoma or other smoking-related cancers
- Family history of lung cancer
- Exposure to radon, asbestos, arsenic, coal smoke or air pollution
- Having COPD or pulmonary fibrosis
Fact: Lifestyle changes decrease risks.
It's never too late to quit smoking—the longer you smoke, the
higher the risk. There are numerous free smoking cessation apps or websites
to help you get started or talk to your health care professional for more
information on quitting.
Poor diet may account for more than five percent of new invasive cancers
in US adults.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends guidelines for healthy eating
to lower your cancer risks. Diets with more fruits, vegetables and whole
grains and less red meat, processed foods and sugary drinks help protect
your immune system, reduce inflammation and support healthy weight.
Physical activity can also attribute to healthy weight and decrease cancer
risks. According to the National Cancer Institute, obesity triggers risk
for 13 types of cancers. ACS recommends that adults get 150-300 minutes
of moderate activity each week.
Fact: Screening tests can detect lung cancer.
When detected in its earliest stages, lung cancer is more treatable and
patients' survivorship rates improve to 63%. ACS recommends screening
tests for people age 50 and older with average risks. If you smoke or
previously smoked and are over 50, discuss a lung cancer screening test
with your doctor.
Thibodaux Regional offers low-dose computed tomography (CT) lung screens.
You may be eligible for a screening test if you:
- Are 50–80 years old
- Have no signs or symptoms of lung cancer
- Have a history of smoking a pack a day for at least 20years
- Are a current smoker or one who quit within the last 15 years
- Receive a written order for a screening
Medicare and many private insurance plans cover screening depending on
your eligibility and plan. To find out more or schedule a lung screening,
Fact: Early-stage lung cancer may not cause symptoms.
With more advanced stage lung cancer, patients may experience symptoms such as:
- New cough that doesn't subside
- Chronic cough that worsens
- Coughing up bloody mucus
- Shortness of breath occurring quicker and more frequently than usual
- Ongoing chest or upper back pain
- Frequent lung infections that don't go away or continue to recur
Fact: Several treatment options are available for lung cancer.
Physicians determine treatment plans based on the cancer stage, number
of tumors and patient's overall health. Treatment options include:
- Surgery to remove tumors or the organ
- Chemotherapy to kill cancer cells
- Radiation therapy
- Targeted therapy that zeroes in on molecules in the cancer
- Immunotherapy utilizing the immune system to kill cancer cells
Cancer can strike at any time. However, by knowing the basic facts and
reducing your risks, you can take practical, everyday steps to keep yourself healthy.
For more information call Thibodaux Regional Cancer Institute, (985) 493-4008,
or visit thibodaux.com.