Lung cancer is the second most common type of cancer in both men and women, and is the leading cause of cancer death, accounting for almost 25% of all cancer deaths according to the American Cancer Society. Early detection and diagnosis of lung cancer allows for a higher chance of a successful treatment. Unfortunately, while some early cancers have signs and symptoms that are easier to recognize, lung cancer often goes undetected. Less than a quarter of all lung cancer cases are being diagnosed at an early stage.
That’s why knowing your risk for lung cancer is essential. Start by taking our free lung cancer risk assessment. Results are sent directly to your inbox.
Understand risk factors
While there are several risk factors associated with lung cancer, one factor in particular contributes to the majority of lung cancer diagnoses. According to the American Lung Association, smoking can be linked to approximately 90 percent of lung cancer cases, making it the leading cause of lung cancer.
If you currently smoke cigarettes, pipes or cigars (even "light" cigarettes) or have smoked in the past, you have an increased risk of lung cancer. Additionally, you may also be at risk if you have been exposed to second-hand smoke at home or in the workplace.
If you currently smoke, quitting will help reduce your risk of developing lung cancer and benefit your health in other ways.
For dates and times of the Quit Smoking Program, please call (210) 575-8235.
Additional risk factors for lung cancer include:
- A family history of lung cancer in an immediate relative like your parents, siblings or grandparents
- Radiation therapy to the breast or chest
- Exposure to air pollution, asbestos, diesel fumes, coal dust, radon or toxic elements
- Some treatments for Hodgkin lymphoma
- Personal history of lung diseases such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), emphysema, bronchitis, and pulmonary fibrosis
- Infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
Educate yourself about screening
There are three screening tests that have been used to detect lung cancer, including:
- Low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) (also called low-dose spiral or helical CT scan), uses low-dose radiation to scan the body in a spiral path
- Chest X-ray to view the organs and bones inside the chest
- Sputum cytology tests the lung secretions, phlegm/mucus, under a microscope to check for cancer cells
The American Cancer Society recommends annual lung cancer screening with a low-dose CT scan for certain people at higher risk for lung cancer who meet the following conditions:
- Are 55 to 77 years old and in fairly good health
- Currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years
- Receive smoking cessation counseling if they are current smokers
- Have at least a 30-pack per year smoking history
To calculate your pack-year, multiply the number of cigarette packs per day by the number of years you have smoked:
- 1 pack/day x 30 years = 30 pack-year history
- 2 packs/day x 15 years = 30 pack-year history
At Methodist Healthcare, we partner with South Texas Radiology Imaging Center (STRIC) for lung cancer screenings. STRIC provides the latest computed tomography (CT) technology available. If you meet the screening criteria listed above, schedule your low-dose CT screening today.
Know the signs and symptoms
The early stages of lung cancer are usually asymptomatic, meaning the person has no symptoms. Some common symptoms of lung cancer include:
- A persistent cough
- Coughing up blood
- Chest pains
- Difficulty breathing or swallowing
- Shortness of breath
- Weight loss or loss of appetite
These symptoms could also be signs of other medical issues. So, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider if you experience any of these symptoms.