November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in both men and women and the leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Each year, more people die from lung cancer than from colon, breast and prostate cancers combined. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 90 percent of lung cancer cases are attributed to cigarette smoking. Lung cancer can also be caused by breathing in dangerous, toxic substances (such as radon, asbestos, uranium, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, nickel and some petroleum products) or everyday air pollution.
There are steps you can take to prevent lung cancer. Limiting exposure to smoke, radon, hazardous chemicals and air pollution will help protect your lungs. If you smoke, the best thing you can do is to stop smoking or better yet never start. Test your home for radon. If it is present, take steps to get rid of it. Wear personal protective equipment like respirators, if you are exposed to dust or fumes at work. Help fight air pollution in your community. Even if you were exposed to these substances many years ago, you are still at risk for developing lung cancer. Talk to your doctor if you have ever been exposed to any of these substances.
Often people with lung cancer do not display symptoms until the disease is in its later stages. A tumor could be in the lungs without causing pain or discomfort. When symptoms are present, they are different in each person but may include:
• A cough that doesn't go away and gets worse over time
• A chronic cough or "smoker's cough"
• Constant chest pain
• Shortness of breath, or wheezing
• Frequent lung infections, such as bronchitis or pneumonia
• Coughing up blood
See your doctor right away, if you notice any of these symptoms. If you think you are at risk for lung cancer, talk to your doctor about being screened. Screening looks for cancer before a person has any symptoms.
If a friend or loved one receives a cancer diagnosis, it is important to be supportive. Choose positive and hopeful words, listen and offer hugs. Don't give people false hope or talk about other people's cancer outcomes. Do whatever you can to make things easier for them, such as delivering meals, driving them to appointments or assisting them with daily chores.
Support a friend or family member touched by lung cancer by wearing a white ribbon or tying a white ribbon around an old oak tree or your mailbox during the month of November. The white ribbon is a symbol of hope--hope for better treatment options and outcomes for those living with lung cancer.
For more information on lung cancer awareness, visit:
Lung Cancer Alliance, http://www.lungcanceralliance.org/get-involved/help-raise-awareness/lung-cancer-awareness-month.html
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/dcpc/resources/features/LungCancer/index.htm
American Lung Association, http://www.lung.org/lung-health-and-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/lung-cancer/
National Cancer Institute, http://www.cancer.gov/types/lung