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Lung Cancer: The Risks, Symptoms, and Screening OptionsNovember 5, 2021
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, lung cancer is the second most common cancer in both men and women. A proactive approach increases the chances that lung cancer can be successfully detected, diagnosed, and treated.
There are a number of factors that increase your risk for developing lung cancer.
- Smoking – Cigarette smoking is the number one risk factor for lung cancer. In the United States, cigarette smoking is linked to about 80% to 90% of lung cancer deaths. Using other tobacco products such as cigars or pipes also increases the risk. Smoke from other people’s cigarettes, pipes, or cigars (secondhand smoke) can also cause lung cancer.
- Substances – Exposure to radon, a naturally occurring gas that comes from rocks and dirt and can get trapped in houses and buildings, has been known to cause lung cancer. Other substances, such as asbestos, arsenic, diesel exhaust, and some forms of silica and chromium, which can be found at some workplaces, can also increase risk.
- Family History of Lung Cancer – Your risk of lung cancer may be higher if a member of your immediate family has been diagnosed with lung cancer. Risk is increased if they were a smoker and you experienced secondhand smoke. If you are a lung cancer survivor, there is a risk that you may develop another lung cancer, especially if you smoke.
Signs and Symptoms
Most people with lung cancer don’t have symptoms until the cancer is advanced. However, some people with early lung cancer may show the following symptoms:
- A cough that does not go away or worsens
- Coughing up blood or rust-colored phlegm
- Chest pain that worsens with deep breathing, coughing, or laughing
- Shortness of breath or wheezing
- Loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss
- Feeling tired or weak
- Chronic respiratory infections, such as bronchitis or pneumonia
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, consult your family physician for screening and diagnosis recommendations.
Screening and Diagnosis
“A key to treating lung cancer is early detection, and if you meet the criteria, you should discuss the risks and advantages of getting screened with your family doctor,” said Dr. Alan Reinach, lead physician of Redeemer Pulmonary Associates.
People who are candidates for lung cancer screening:
- Are current or former smokers who quit within the last 15 years
- Have a 20-pack-a-year smoking history (one pack a day for 20 years or two packs a day for 10 years)
- Are between the ages of 50-80
These screening guidelines have recently been updated. Please check with your individual insurance carrier to determine coverage.
A LDCT (low-dose computed tomography) scan is a non-invasive tool used to take multiple cross-sectional images of the lungs that are then combined into a detailed picture.
When a screening indicates that further testing is needed, Redeemer Health provides state-of-the-art procedures to help diagnose lung cancer, which can include the following:
- EBUS (endobronchial ultrasound) bronchoscopy – a flexible tube with a video camera and ultrasound probe that creates images of the lungs and nearby lymph nodes. In conjunction with a biopsy, EBUS offers a minimally invasive way to locate and evaluate the tumor or area of concern detected on screening tests.
- Navigational bronchoscopy – a steerable fiberoptic instrument and GPS-like technology to reach and biopsy small lung nodules on the periphery of the lung more reliably, often allowing diagnosis and staging in a single procedure.
- PET (positron emission tomography) scanning – a radioactive tracer to locate tissue variations at a molecular level. PET images of the lungs can show abnormalities that are metabolically active, though they must be interpreted carefully because noncancerous conditions can look like cancer.
If lung cancer is identified, patients have access to expert, cutting-edge treatment options available through our partnership with MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper.
Redeemer Health maintains a nationally recognized accreditation through the Care Continuum Center of Excellence by the GO2 Foundation for Lung Cancer and is recognized as a Screening Center of Excellence by the Lung Cancer Alliance.
Knowing lung cancer symptoms and screening and diagnostics options can be essential for early detection and treatment. If you have questions about lung cancer and your risk, speak with your family physician. For more information on the screening and diagnosis options at Redeemer Health visit redeemerhealth.org/lung-cancer-screening.