Breathe a little easier and protect your lungs!
Did you know that in the United States, Maryland and Anne Arundel County, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women? Lung cancer is also known as the most preventable form of cancer. The American Cancer Society reports that tobacco use, such as smoking cigarettes and cigars, accounts for 80% of all lung cancer deaths. So, do your lungs a favor, and decide not to smoke or make the decision to quit today!
What Is Lung Cancer?
Lung cancer is the presence of cancer cells in the tissues of the lungs, usually in the cells lining air passages. There are two types of lung cancer, non-small cell and small cell, which are determined by looking at slides of the cells under a microscope.
Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC)
Non-small cell lung cancer is the most common type of lung cancer. About 7 out of 8 people with lung cancer have NSCLC. It typically grows and spreads slower than small cell lung cancer.
Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC)
Small cell lung cancer is less common than NSCLC and affects about 1 out of 8 people with lung cancer. SCLC usually grows and spreads faster than NSCLC.
What are the Risk Factors for Lung Cancer?
- Smoking Tobacco Products
Cigarette smoking is the number one risk factor for developing lung cancer. Smoking products such as cigarettes, cigars and cigarillos greatly increases your risk of developing lung cancer. The risk of developing lung cancer is about 23 times higher in men and 13 times higher in women who smoke compared to those who have never smoked. For information on quitting smoking, click here.
- Exposure to Environmental Tobacco
Secondhand smoke is a mix of gas and fine particles that includes smoke from the burning end of a cigarette or cigar. Secondhand smoke also comes from smoke that has been breathed out by a person smoking. It is estimated that every year, secondhand smoke causes 3,400 lung cancer deaths in adult nonsmokers. Thirdhand smoke is the product of the burning of tobacco, which releases toxic smoke particles that cling to surrounding areas long after the smoke has cleared. Infants and toddlers are most at risk. When they crawl on the floor, suck their thumbs, mouth toys and cling to parents, they are touching and breathing in these toxins. There is no safe level of exposure to environmental tobacco smoke! Download the Save Yourself and Your Family from Environmental Tobacco Smoke Card now. (PDF)
- Exposure to Asbestos
Asbestos is a cancer-causing group of minerals that occurs naturally in the environment as bundles of fibers. Asbestos has been used in many industries because it is resistant to heat, fire and chemicals. If products containing asbestos are disturbed, tiny asbestos fibers are released into the air. If these fibers are breathed in, they can be trapped in the lungs and remain there for a long time causing scarring and irritation. Studies have shown that asbestos exposure may increase the risk of lung cancer. People should follow safety procedures and wear protective equipment such as masks when working in an area that contains asbestos.
- Exposure to Radon
Radon is a radioactive gas released by the breakdown of uranium in some soils, rocks and water. Radon exposure is the second-leading cause of lung cancer after smoking tobacco products. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, radon is estimated to cause 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year. Radon exposure can occur through breathing radon-exposed air in buildings and homes and by eating or drinking radon. The best way to protect yourself from radon exposure is by testing your home for radon and assessing the level that is currently in your home or office. To learn more about testing your home for radon, click here.
- Family History
People with a parent, sibling or child with lung cancer have a greater risk of developing lung cancer themselves. People with a family history of lung cancer may have inherited a gene that increases their risk. This risk could also come from sharing a living environment where radon or asbestos is present. Having family members who share behaviors such as tobacco smoking greatly increases the risk of lung cancer.
- History of Radiation Therapy
Individuals who have received radiation treatment, especially on their chest, have an increased risk of lung cancer. Patients who are treated for Hodgkin’s lymphoma or who are treated with radiation after breast cancer treatment are at a higher risk for lung cancer.
Some studies have suggested that people may be at an increased risk for lung cancer due to several lifestyle factors. The following lifestyle factors may contribute to an increased risk:
- Lack of regular physical activity
- Diet low in fruits and vegetables
- Diet low in fiber and high in fat
- Overweight and obesity
- Alcohol consumption
If you think you may be at risk, talk to your doctor. Your doctor may be able to suggest ways to reduce your risk and can make recommendations for screening.
Lung Cancer Symptoms
Early lung cancer may not show any symptoms. Some symptoms that could be present include:
- Constant chest pain
- Cough that does not go away and continues to get worse over time
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Coughing up blood
- Shortness of breath
- Wheezing and hoarseness (strained voice)
- Loss of feeling hungry and losing weight without trying
- Repeated problems with pneumonia or bronchitis
- Neck and face swelling
How to Protect Your Lungs
- The best way to prevent lung cancer is by never smoking tobacco products or deciding to quit right now. For information on quitting smoking, click here.
- Get your home and office tested for radon and asbestos exposure.
- Limit exposure to environmental (second and thirdhand) tobacco smoke.
- Make healthy lifestyle changes!
Your Health Depends on Good Communication!
Asking questions and providing information to your health care provider can improve your care. Communication leads to better results, satisfaction, quality of care and safety.
Quality health care is a team effort, and you play an important role! One of the best ways to communicate effectively with your doctor is by asking questions. For information to help you be more involved with your health care, click here. This site provides helpful suggestions for before, during and after your doctor’s visits. Click here to download a brochure that provides tips to prepare and plan your doctor’s appointments. (PDF)
View these websites for more information on lung cancer.
Anne Arundel County Department of Health Links: