Combine all the yearly deaths from colon, ovarian, prostate, and breasts cancer, and they still don’t add up to the lives lost annually in the United States to lung cancer.
August 1st is Lung Cancer Awareness Day, and there’s no better time take a closer look at lung cancer and its causes, symptoms, treatments.
So what is lung cancer? It’s when cell growth in the lungs becomes abnormal and cancer cells begin generating. Healthy cells divide, grow, and sometimes die at set times. When this process breaks through environmental influences or mutated genes, cells divide uncontrollably and tumors form.
There are two primary forms of lung cancer: small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Most common in smokers, SCLC comprises about 15 percent of lung cancers and is highly aggressive, rapidly metastasizing and often spread extensively before their discovery.
NSCLC is the most common type of lung cancer, accounting for around 85 percent of all cases. More prevalent in women, NSCLC cancers fall into three subgroups, adenocarcinomas, squamous cell carcinomas, and large cell carcinomas.
World Lung Cancer Day 2019 on August 1st is a good reminder that we must all join together to fight this number-one killer, including learning more by visiting our friends at the American Cancer Society.
Lung Cancer Signs and Symptoms
According to the National Institute of Health, lung cancer may not cause signs or symptoms in its early stages. Some people with lung cancer will notice chest pain, shortness of breath, frequent coughing, trouble speaking or swallowing, fatigue, loss of appetite and weight, and blood in their mucus.
As with all cancers, early detection is critical, so seek medical attention for any of the above symptoms, especially if you have a history of smoking or long-term exposure to carcinogenic fumes such as diesel exhaust and other chemicals. If you’re showing signs or symptoms of lung cancer, please immediately consult with your physician or schedule an appointment with our lung cancer treatment specialists. Do it for you, for your family, and for Lung Cancer Awareness Day.
Lung Cancer Treatment Options
If lung cancer is detected, patients undergo a process called staging to determine how far the cancer has spread in the lungs, lymph nodes, and throughout the body. The type and stage of lung cancer is how physicians determine the best form of treatment.
Patients with non-small cell lung cancer are treated with surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, or, more often, a combination of these treatments. Small cell lung cancer patients generally treated with radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
At Leonard Cancer Institute, doctors from multiple specialties work together to aggressively eliminate or control lung cancers. These specialists include pulmonologists, surgeons, thoracic surgeons, and medical and radiation oncologists.
Lung cancer treatment options can also include immunotherapy and clinical trials. Cancer can turn off or suppress the immune system. Immunotherapy, including a class of drugs called checkpoint inhibitors, turns on cancer-fighting T-cells that can recognize tumors and attack them directly.
The Leonard Cancer Institute and its specialists partner with researchers, centers of excellence, and private industries to offer patients access to the latest clinical trials. In these trials, patients may find a more effective lung cancer treatment and help pioneer the standard of care for future patients.
The Smoking Gun and World Lung Cancer Day
Of course, people who smoke have the highest risk of developing lung cancer. And a majority of small-cell lung cancer cases are caused by smoking.
For current smokers, what better way to discuss Lung Cancer Awareness Day than to kick the habit. The good news is that stopping smoking and time can significantly decrease your health risks. Quitting smoking before the age of 40 reduces the risk of dying from smoking-related disease by about 90 percent, but it’s never too late to stop. Research shows your body and lungs begin to heal just 12 hours after your last cigarette.
Your genes may also influence your chances of getting cancer. Other lung cancer causes and risk factors include a prior history of lung cancer or lung disease, exposure to asbestos, smoke, or radon, and a poor diet.
Care About Your Air This Lung Cancer Awareness Day
Some of us are old enough to remember smoke-filled restaurants, bars, and even airplanes. With most states ban smoking in enclosed public spaces, exposure to second-hand smoke is nowhere near as widespread as it once was.
But what about our air in general, including indoor and outdoor pollutions? Both indoor and outdoor pollutions have been shown to increase the risk of cancer. Even with falling smoking rates, second-hand smoke is the leading indoor air pollutant. Other chemicals, certain cooking oils and fuels, and radon gas can also prevent a danger.
To protect yourself against outdoor air pollutions, pay attention to your local Air Quality Index (AQI). The AQI tracks smog and the tiny particles in the air from ash, power plants, factories, vehicle exhaust dust, pollen, and more. Avoiding heavy exposure to the particulates can go a long way in protecting your lungs help, so try to limit outdoor exertion during times when the AQI rises above 51.
While great strides have been made with the Clean Air Act and anti-smoking initiatives, there are still risks out there for all our lungs. World Lung Cancer Day is a time to remember that protecting and promoting cleaner air can go a long way in reducing the leading cause of cancer deaths in the US.
If there’s anything the Leonard Cancer Institute can do to aid in your lung’s health, whether you’re a patient, caregiver, or even a patient at another facility, please reach out to us by emailing the institute here. We’re also available to chat on social media if you need someone to lean on.