During National Lung Cancer Awareness Month, Phyllis Thorstenson, R.N., at Sutter Amador Hospital encourages you to protect your health and stop smoking to prevent lung cancer.
Lung cancer is expected to strike more than 220,000 people every year, and is the second most common cancer (not counting skin cancers) among both men and women, while also being the most deadly. Lung cancer is the number one cancer killer in the United States, with more people dying from lung cancer every year than colon, breast and prostate cancers combined.
Who gets lung cancer?
The majority of lung cancers are diagnosed in people over 60, but it can occur in younger people as well. The most common cause of lung cancer is smoking, but non-smokers and former smokers are also at risk with some people developing the disease without any clear cause or risk factors. While some think of lung cancer as a men’s disease, it has risen 116 percent among women. Much of this increase is thought to be related to tobacco use.
Are there symptoms of lung cancer?
Unfortunately, most lung cancers do not cause symptoms until they are advanced, but there are some signs to watch for: a cough that doesn’t go away, coughing up blood, hoarseness, chest discomfort that is worse with coughing, unexplained weight loss, shortness of breath, feeling tired or weak for no reason. In some cases it’s having infections like bronchitis that just won’t go away. Most of the time these symptoms are something other than cancer, but if you experience these symptoms please talk to your doctor.
Can you prevent lung cancer?
Smoking is linked to about 90 percent of lung cancers. If you do smoke, it’s never too late to quit. The benefits and cost savings are numerous. Within two weeks of quitting, your circulation improves and lung function increases. Your doctor can help you, and the California Smokers Helpline has many free services and resources available as well. Go to www.nobutts.org or call 1-800- 662-8887. The Amador County Public Health Department also offers free adult cessation classes. For more information, call 209-223-6638.
You should also avoid exposure to chemicals or materials, such as radon or asbestos, that cause cancer whether at work or elsewhere. And, of course, a healthy diet high in fruits and vegetables is thought to be helpful as well.
Should you be screened for lung cancer?
If you are 55-75 years old and a current smoker, or if you have smoked a pack a day for 30 years or quit within the last 15 years, you may be eligible for lung cancer screening using CT scanning. People who meet criteria should talk to their doctor about whether they should be screened for lung cancer. Sutter Amador Hospital was recently accredited by the American College of Radiology to provide low-dose CT lung cancer screenings for those who qualify. The low-dose CT screening exam is a fast, easy and safe way to detect lung cancer early. National research shows that low-dose CT scans help reduce deaths from lung cancer by 15 to 20 percent. Most insurance companies, including Medicare, cover the cost of a lung cancer screening exam.
Today, thousands of people are surviving lung cancer, largely because of improvements in diagnostics and advances in treatments.
Make a change
Love your lungs! If you smoke, quit. If someone you love smokes, encourage them to quit. If you have any questions or concerns about lung cancer and your risk for it, please talk to your doctor. And remember, Sutter Health is with you every breath of the way.
Phyllis Thorstenson is a registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience and has been assisting patients at Sutter Amador Hospital for the past 20 years. For more information on lung cancer or lung cancer screenings, contact 209-223-7560.