Lung Cancer: You Can Stop It!
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. However, the most common type - non-small cell lung cancer - can sometimes be cured if it is found early enough.
Treatment involves surgery to remove the part of the lung that has cancer. Unfortunately, about 90 percent of the people who have lung cancer die from the disease, in part because it is often not found until the cancer is at an advanced stage.
Smoking is the biggest risk factor for lung cancer. About 85 percent of lung cancers are caused by smoking. The risk of developing lung cancer increases with the amount a person smokes and the length of time a person smokes. The risk of lung cancer also increases as people get older. Most lung cancers occur in people 55 and older.
The most important way to reduce the risk of developing lung cancer is to not smoke or stop smoking, and to avoid exposure to tobacco smoke. People who quit smoking greatly reduce their risk of developing and dying from lung cancer. The risk continues to go down over time.
Screening for Lung Cancer
The main test used to detect lung cancer is low-dose computed tomography (low-dose CT). In this test, an x-ray machine scans the body and uses low doses of radiation to make a series of detailed pictures of the lungs. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has found that low-dose CT scans more accurately identify early stage cancer than do oter screening tests. They also found that many lung cancer deaths can be prevented by screening high-risk people every year. High risk means people who:
- Are 55 to 80 years old, AND
- Have a history of heavy smoking (a 30-pack year history), AND
- Are either current smokers or have quit within the past 15 years