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Lung Cancer

Lung Cancer

While many factors can contribute to lung cancer risk, about 80 to 90% of lung cancer deaths are related to cigarette smoking.

There is definitive evidence that screening long-time smokers with low-dose spiral CT (LDCT) significantly reduces lung cancer deaths, but—despite being a non-invasive and quick procedure—current screening rates are low. In 2021, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) lowered the eligible screening age and smoking criteria, effectively expanding screening access to millions more smokers and former smokers.

Screening

If you’re a heavy smoker or a former heavy smoker, get screened for lung cancer. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends screening for current or former smokers who are ages 50–80, who have 20 pack-year histories* of smoking and who either still smoke or have quit within the past 15 years. 

There is definitive evidence that screening long-time smokers with low-dose spiral CT significantly reduces lung cancer deaths.

*A ‘pack-year history’ is an estimate of how much a person has smoked over time. The number of packs of cigarettes smoked every day is multiplied by the number of years a person has smoked that amount. Example: a person who smoked 1 pack a day for 20 years has a history of 1 x 20 = 20 pack years. 

What Puts you at Increased Risk for Lung Cancer?

You are at risk for lung cancer if you:

  • Are a heavy smoker now or a have a history of heavy smoking—even if you quit a long time ago.
  • Have had heavy exposure to secondhand smoke.
  • Were exposed to indoor or outdoor air pollution.
  • Have had a job with exposure to radiation.
  • Were exposed to certain toxic substances, such as arsenic, radon or asbestos.
  • Have a personal or family history of lung cancer.

Reduce Your Risk

  • Do not smoke or use tobacco in any way. If you do, quit. If you’re a heavy smoker or former heavy smoker, get screened for lung cancer according to guidelines.
  • Stay away from secondhand smoke.
  • Eat lots of fruits and vegetables.
  • Don’t rely on supplements: beta-carotene supplements may increase risk of lung cancer.
  • Make your home and community smoke-free.

While many factors can contribute to lung cancer risk, about 80-90% of lung cancer deaths are related to cigarette smoking.

For help quitting, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

Symptoms

In the early stages, there may be no symptoms. As lung cancer progresses, these symptoms may occur:

  • A cough that does not go away
  • Coughing up blood
  • Constant chest pain
  • Repeated pneumonia or bronchitis
  • Weight loss and loss of appetite
  • Hoarseness lasting a long time
  • Wheezing or shortness of breath
  • Feeling very tired all the time

Talk with your health care provider if you have any of these symptoms, even if you have none of the risk factors listed.

Treatment Options

Lung cancer treatment depends on the type of cancer (small cell or non-small cell), the size of the tumor and whether or not it has spread.

• In early stages of lung cancer, when the disease has not spread outside the lungs, surgery is the usual treatment. Sometimes chemotherapy, immunotherapy, or targeted therapy is used in combination with surgery.

• For later stages of the disease, radiation and chemotherapy are sometimes used in combination with surgery. Patients with certain mutations may be eligible for immunotherapy.

• New, less-invasive surgery may help patients recover more quickly with the same results as older, more invasive surgery.

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