Lung Cancer: Early Detection Saves Lives

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Current and former smokers may qualify for a simple screening that could prevent the leading cause of cancer-related death in the U.S.

In many cases, lung cancer does not show symptoms until the disease is at a later stage, when it is more difficult to treat. However, low-dose CT scans can help your doctor find signs of lung cancer during more treatable stages. If lung cancer is detected in its earliest stages, the chance of surviving five years after the initial diagnosis is 56 percent, according to the American Lung Association.

A low-dose CT scan is more effective at finding lung cancer and results in fewer lung cancer-related deaths than chest X-rays, according to the American Cancer Society.

Do You Qualify?

The American Cancer Society recommends you receive lung cancer screenings if you:

  • Are between 55 and 74 years of age
  • Are in good health overall
  • Currently smoke or have quit in the last 15 years
  • Have at least a 30 pack-year history of smoking
  • Received counseling to quit smoking, if you currently smoke

A pack-year describes how many packs of cigarettes you smoked each day, on average, multiplied by the number of years you smoked. For example, 30 pack-years is equivalent to smoking one pack a day for 30 years or two packs a day for 15 years.

If you do not meet the listed criteria, talk with your physician about whether or not you would still need a screening. In the meantime, you can reduce your risk of lung cancer by quitting smoking if you currently smoke, as well as avoiding secondhand smoke.

Also, consider having your home checked for radon, a naturally occurring gas that exists in rocks, soil and water that can increase lung cancer risk. Certain areas of the country have a higher prevalence of radon, but professionals can recommend ways to keep it out of your home.

Vaping Won’t Help You Quit

While some product manufacturers claim that vaping or electronic cigarettes are safer than traditional cigarettes, there is no evidence to suggest that claim is true. So far, there have been no studies that show vaping is a healthier alternative to smoking, and vaping is not a U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved method of quitting smoking.

If you or someone you love wants to quit smoking, there are other FDA-approved methods that are successful, such as tobacco replacement products, online programs or in-person group meetings.

If you would like to quit smoking, you can call 1-800-LUNGUSA to order the American Lung Association’s “Freedom From Smoking: The Guide to Help You Quit Smoking.”

  • E-cigarettes deliver nicotine, the addictive substance naturally found in tobacco, according to the National Center for Health Research.
  • For nonsmokers, the No. 1 cause of lung cancer is radon.
  • Secondhand smoke exposure can increase a nonsmoker’s chances of developing lung cancer by 20 to 30 percent.