Lung Cancer – Are You Still Smoking?

INTRODUCTION: Lung cancer is a disease of uncontrolled cell growth in tissues of the lungs. It is one of the most common cancers in the United States, accounting for about 15 percent of all cases, or 170,000 new cases each year. It is also the worst cancer killer in America, taking more lives each year than breast, prostate and colorectal cancers combined, according to the American Cancer Society. It is the leading cause of cancer deaths in US women and is responsible for as many deaths as breast and all gynecological cancers combined.

SMOKING: Smoking, radon, and second hand smoking are the main causes. Smoking causes an estimated 160,000* deaths in the United States and leads to 85 percent to 90 percent of all lung cancers.

Smoking affects non-smokers by exposing them to second hand smoke. If a person stops smoking, this chance steadily decreases as damage to the lungs is repaired and contaminant particles are gradually removed.

RADON GAS: A colorless and odorless gas produced by the breakdown of radioactive radium, which is the decomposition product of uranium, found in the earth’s crust.

Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers, according to EPA estimates. It accounts for 15,000 to 22,000 deaths each year in the United States — 12 percent of all lung cancer deaths are linked to radon.

RISK FACTORS: Include smoking cigarettes or cigars, in the present or in the past. Smoking does not account for all cases, but the role of passive smoking is increasingly being recognized as a risk factor, leading to policy interventions to diminish undesired exposure of non-smokers to others’ tobacco smoke.

A smoker who is also exposed to radon has a much higher risk of lung cancer. The more cigarettes you smoke a day and the earlier you started, the greater your risk of developing lung cancer. High levels of pollution, radiation and asbestos exposure may also increase your risk.

SYMPTOMS: May include Persistant cough, Hoarseness, Coughing up blood, Loss of Weight and Appetite, Shortness of breath, Fever without a known reason, Wheezing, Repeating bouts of bronchitis or pneumonia and Chest pain.

Approximately 10% of people do not have symptoms at diagnosis; these cancers are incidentally found on regular chest x-rays. In fact, lung cancer can spread outside the lungs with no symptoms at all.

TREATMENT: Treatment depends on the cancer’s specific cell type, how far it has spread, and the patient’s performance status. It also depends on the stage, or how advanced it is.

Treatment choices should be discussed with Your doctor. It may include chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. In recent years, various molecular targeted therapies have been developed as treatments.

CONCLUSION: Lung cancer is the second most commonly occurring form of cancer in most western countries, and it is the leading cancer-related cause of death. It is the most common cause of cancer deaths in both men and women, accounting for nearly a third of cancer deaths annually in the United States.

It has become the subject of a great amount of research. Although the rate of men dying from it is declining in western countries, it is actually increasing for women due to the increased takeup of smoking by this group. We already know that the best way to prevent it is to quit (or never start) smoking. Three to five years after quitting, the risk of getting the disease is reduced by half.

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