Lung cancer is one of the deadliest but also most preventable cancers. Here’s what you should know.
1. About 90 percent of all lung cancer cases are directly caused by smoking.
It’s possible for people who don’t smoke to get lung cancer—from radon exposure, secondhand smoke, DNA changes, or other factors—but firsthand smoking is by far the top contributing cause of lung cancer.
There are some environmental contributors to a small percentage of lung cancers, but if people quit smoking, there would likely be a 90 percent reduction in the number of lung cancer diagnoses.
2. Quitting smoking is the best thing you can do to prevent lung cancer.
Your overall health will improve when you quit smoking, and your risk for developing lung cancer decreases significantly. Read our tips on how to quit.
3. Most early lung cancers don’t have any symptoms.
Many cases of lung cancer are silent and asymptomatic until they’re advanced.
If you have a new unexplained chest pain, are coughing up blood, or have a persistent cough, you should see your doctor as these may be signs of lung cancer or other serious conditions, like COPD, that need treatment.
4. A lung screening can catch early stages of lung cancer.
We have a screening test for people who don’t have symptoms of lung cancer but are at risk of developing it. Your primary care physician can refer you to where and when to get screened.
This screening is a CT scan with a low radiation dose—it’s like a mammogram for your lungs. We can look for abnormalities in this screening.
If we don’t see anything unusual, you’re good for another year, just like with a mammogram screening. If we do see something that needs to be checked out, we’ll refer you to specialists for biopsies and further testing.
5. There are several treatment options for lung cancer.
We’ve had some huge breakthroughs in the past few years for treating lung cancer.
Chemotherapy used to be the only option, but now some patients can be treated without chemo.
Some patients can take a daily pill that targets the specific DNA abnormality that is “driving” the cancer. Other patients can be treated with immunotherapy, which restores the ability of their immune system to fight the cancer naturally without chemotherapy.
At Sanford Health, we’re always looking at all options currently available and clinical trials for the most effective and best tolerated treatments for our patients.
An important piece in the way we treat lung cancer is doing in-depth genomic testing so we can have personalized treatments for each patient.
Every lung cancer case is different, so your doctor and a team of multidisciplinary lung and cancer specialists will work together to find the best treatment option for you.
A lung cancer diagnosis can make you feel powerless or overwhelmed. Let friends and family help you along this complex journey. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or let people know how you’re feeling.