Lung Cancer Awareness Month (November)

November is Lung Cancer Awareness month. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States among men and women, and every ethnic group... 1 in every 3 cancer deaths.

Lung Cancer will kill:

  • More people than the next four deadly cancers: colorectal, breast, pancreas and prostate... combined.
  • Over three times as many men as prostate cancer.
  • Nearly twice as many women as breast cancer.
  • An average of 437 people a day.

What puts a person at a greater risk of getting lung cancer?

Smoking causes about 87% of lung cancer deaths. The longer people smoke, and the more packs per day they smoke, the greater their risk is of developing lung cancer. People exposed to Radon, a radioactive gas that can be in houses, are at increased risk of lung cancer. People who work or have worked with asbestos also have a higher risk of getting lung cancer and another form of cancer called mesothelioma. Other risk factors include certain cancer-causing agents in the environment, aging, and lung scarring from some types of pneumonia.

In the United States, most people newly diagnosed with lung cancer are former smokers at 60%, with 20.9% as current smokers and 17.9% as people who never smoked. Former smokers carry a lifelong increased risk for lung cancer. For these people, early diagnosis is critical for survival. Currently, no accepted lung cancer screening policy exists, resulting in 85% of people diagnosed in late-stage disease. In addition, an attitude of fear and blame surrounds lung cancer and discourages people at risk from seeking medical attention. The link between lung cancer and smoking is indisputable, but it should not hinder a well thought out plan of action to reduce mortality.

In 1971 President Richard Nixon officially declared the "War on Cancer". In the past four decades many cancers have seen their five-year survival rates increase as a direct result of research, treatments, screening and diagnosis tools. In 1971 lung cancer had a five year survival rate of only 13.2%. Forty years later, that five year survival rate remains at 15%.

Although former smokers are at greater risk than never before smokers, quitting smoking greatly decreases risk of developing and dying from lung cancer. For those having surgery or other treatments, quitting smoking helps improve the body's ability to heal and respond to the cancer treatment, and it lowers the risk of pneumonia and respiratory failure. Also, quitting smoking may lower the risk of the cancer returning or a second cancer forming.

Resources for quitting smoking/tobacco: www.becomeanex.org and Augusta Health's Gain Independence From Tobacco class.

Information for this article was retrieved from the Lung Cancer Alliance website at http://lungcanceralliance.org/.

Article provided by Dana H. Breeding, RN Health Educator of Community Wellness, at Augusta Health. To contact Dana Breeding, RN related to the above information please call (540) 332-4988 or ((540) 932-4988.