Lung Cancer, know the risks, know the facts, know your options.

Lung Cancer Awareness Month is a national campaign dedicated to increasing attention to lung cancer issues.  This awareness helps to bring much-needed support and attention to a disease that each year kills more people than breast, prostate, colon and pancreas cancers combined.

What Causes Lung Cancer?

Smoking is the number one cause of lung cancer.  The more time and quantity you smoke, the greater your risk of lung cancer.  However, if you stop smoking, the risk of lung cancer decreases each year as normal cells replace abnormal cells.  In addition, quitting smoking greatly reduces the risk of developing other smoking-related diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, emphysema and chronic bronchitis.  The chemicals in tobacco also affect the nonsmoker inhaling the smoke, also knows as secondhand smoking.  This may cause lung cancer in the nonsmoker.
Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer.  Radon gas can come up through the soil under a home or building and enter through gaps or cracks in the foundation or insulation, or through pipes, drains, walls or other openings.

Another leading cause is exposure to cancer-causing substances like asbestos.

Some questions to consider when determining if you are at risk for lung cancer:

  • Have you ever smoked cigarettes, cigars or pipes?
  • Have you been exposed to excessive amounts of secondhand smoke?
  • Have you had extended exposure to radon or asbestos?
  • Is there a history of lung cancer in your immediate family?
  • Do you have breathing problems such as shortness of breath, persistent cough, or chronic wheezing?
  • Do you have undiagnosed chest, shoulder, or back pain?
  • Have you been diagnosed with other respirator diseases, such as emphysema, COPD, or tuberculosis?

If you answered yes to even one of these questions, consult with your physician.

Symptoms of Lung Cancer

In its early stages, lung cancer usually does not cause symptoms.  When symptoms occur, the cancer is often advanced.

Symptoms of lung cancer include:

  • Persistent cough or coughing blood
  • Chest pain that is often worse with deep breathing, coughing or laughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Recurring pneumonia or bronchitis
  • Swelling of the neck and face
  • Unexplained weight loss, loss of appetite or fatigue

These conditions may also be symptomatic of many other lung problems, so see a doctor to found out the cause.

Prevention

You can reduce your risk of developing lung cancer by taking the following actions:

  • Quit smoking or don't start smoking.
  • Avoid secondhand smoke as much as possible.
  • Have a radon test conducted in your home, and/or have licensed personnel  inspect your home for asbestos and other harmful substances. 
  • Take any corrective action necessary to rid you home of high levels of radon and/or asbestos.

Diagnosis and Treatment Options

There is no effective screening program to detect lung cancer early.

Tools that may be used to diagnose lung cancer include:

  • Chest x-ray
  • CT scans and MRI
  • Lung tissue biopsy
  • Pulmonary evaluation

The treatment options for lung cancer are dependent on the type and size of the cancer, its location, and your overall health.

Several different treatments and combinations of treatments may be used, including:

To learn more about radiation therapy for lung cancer visit the Radiation Oncology of Central NY web site at www.radiationoncologyservicespc.com

Sources:  American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, Lung Cancer Alliance

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