lung cancer fact and fiction

Lung Screening CoupleMyth # 1: There is nothing I can do to lower my risk of lung cancer.

Avoiding smoking can lower your risk of lung cancer as well as an awareness of other factors that can cause lung cancer. In addition, a healthy diet and exercise lower the likelihood of developing cancer as well as prevent other serious health conditions such as heart disease, stroke and others.

Myth # 2: Only smokers can get lung cancer.

According to the American Cancer Society, “as many as 20 percent of the people who die from lung cancer in the United States every year do not smoke or use any other form of tobacco.” The majority of people who develop lung cancer are actually ex-smokers. However, when combining current and former smokers, this accounts for 80-85% of all lung cancers.

Myth #3: Smoking is the only risk.

Smoking is the biggest risk factor in developing lung cancer, but there are others. The number two cause of lung cancer is an odorless radioactive gas called radon. Radon is given off by rocks and soil and it can seep up into homes and buildings. You can call your state or county health department for more information and find out how to test your home for radon. Other risks include working with chemicals such as asbestos and vinyl chloride, or living in an area with a high level of air pollution.

Myth # 4: Low-tar or light cigarettes are safer than regular.

Low-tar or light cigarettes are just as risky as regular cigarettes. Also, beware of menthol cigarettes as some research suggests that they may actually be more dangerous and harder to quit because their cooling sensation prompts some people to inhale more deeply.

Myth # 5: If I already have lung cancer, it doesn’t pay to quit smoking.

If you stop smoking after a lung cancer diagnosis your treatment may be more effective and you may also have milder side effects. If you need surgery as part of your treatment plan, ex-smokers tend to heal better than current smokers. Quitting also makes a second cancer less likely to occur.

Myth # 6: Lung cancer is a death sentence.

A lung cancer diagnosis is not an automatic death sentence. Lung cancer is much more treatable if caught at an early stage. Unfortunately, many lung cancer cases are diagnosed at a later stage when the cancer may not be curable. Do not wait for symptoms to appear as they often develop when the disease has reached a later stage. “Studies have shown a 20 percent reduction in lung cancer deaths as a result of screening. It is saving lives. That is why smokers and former smokers who quit within the last 15 years and are age 55 to 77 with a 30 “pack year” smoking history – an average of one pack a day for 30 years –  should be offered and encouraged to have a lung cancer screening,” said Eileen Zaoutis, RN, Nurse Navigator for Mather’s Lung Cancer Screening Program.

Even if lung cancer is not curable, it is treatable. Keeping in mind that every patient and every case is different, treatment can not only extend life, but can help lessen some of the symptoms of the cancer as well.