Who is at greatest risk for lung cancer?
- Smoking is the health behavior most closely related to lung cancer. People who smoke cigarettes are 15 to 30 times more likely to get lung cancer or die from lung cancer than people who do not smoke. Inhaling secondhand smoke raises the risk of lung cancer in non-smokers by 20-30%.
- Exposure to asbestos, radon and other known cancer-causing chemicals also raises the risk. Growing up or living in an environment with heavy air pollution is another influence on lung health. A family history of lung cancer also increases the possibility of lung cancer.
- In recent years, doctors have become concerned by the number of people who have never smoked who develop lung cancer. In some cases, they now know, one factor is the dysfunction of the ROS1 gene in a small percentage of East Asian people diagnosed with lung cancer without any history of smoking. Researchers continue to look for other influential gene mutations that may cause lung cancer in people who have never smoked.
Sources: CDC // National Cancer Institute // American Cancer Society
Who should be screened for lung cancer?
There are two nationally recognized, evidence-based standards for who should be screened.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends screening if you are between age 55 and 80 who is currently smoking or quit within the past 15 years and your smoking history equals a 30-pack-year level. A pack year equals the number of packs smoked per day times the number of years a patient smoked.
The National Comprehensive Cancer Network recommends screening for people who are at least 50 years old and have a 20-pack-year smoking history and one other risk factor. Those factors include:
- Radon exposure
- Family history of lung cancer
- History of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or pulmonary fibrosis
- Occupational exposure to silica, cadmium, asbestos, beryllium, chromium, diesel fumes and nickel
- History of other cancers: lymphoma, head and neck, smoking-related cancers of the respiratory and upper digestive tract
Sources: Stanford Health Care // USPSTF // NCCN
What are the symptoms of lung cancer?
Lung cancer may cause a cough, constant chest pain, shortness of breath and wheezing. It may also trigger recurring lung infections (including pneumonia and bronchitis.) Its presence may also alter the color of sputum to rust or blood red. Continuing hoarseness is another common symptom.
Source: Stanford Health Care
What are the latest treatment options available to me?
Your treatment will vary depending on the location and size of your lung cancer, the type of lung cancer you have, the genetic profile of your cancer, your previous medical history and your age.
Fortunately, lung cancer treatments continue to develop and improve. If lung cancer is caught early, the success rate of treatment is high. Three forms of treatment can be applied singly or in combination, including:
- Surgical removal of the cancer is conducted through long or short incisions in the side of the chest. The size and location of the cancer will determine the surgical method. Early stage tumors can also be removed using video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS). VATS is done through two very small incisions that allow a surgeon to insert a surgical tool and video camera inside the chest. It is considered minimally invasive.
- Radiation can be delivered with great precision in what’s called stereotactic radio surgery using devices that follow a tumor as the lungs move, protecting healthy tissue and shortening treatment time. Radiation can also be delivered in radioactive seeds placed in or nearby a tumor. This technique is called brachytherapy.
- Chemotherapy for lung cancer has become more and more specific to the genetic make-up of each tumor. Many tumors are driven by molecular behavior that can be addressed by chemotherapy aimed at stopping that behavior.
- Combined therapy may include surgery followed by radiation, or chemotherapy followed by surgery or a side-by-side combination of therapies. Research results increasingly show that combination treatment can be more effective.
Source: Stanford Health Care