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Lung Cancer: Know Your Risks

Lung Cancer: Know Your Risks

breast cancer ribbon

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States. However, you can reduce your risk by making changes to your lifestyle and, if necessary, getting regular screenings. Here at Frederick Health, we offer preventative screenings and various programs to help you stay healthy and well.

Reduce Your Risk of Lung Cancer

The steps you can take to reduce your risk of lung cancer consist of healthy lifestyle choices that improve your overall wellbeing.

  • Don’t smoke. Smoking cigarettes is the number one risk factor for lung cancer. In the United States, it’s linked to about 80 to 90 percent of lung cancer deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). In fact, people who smoke cigarettes are 15 to 30 times more likely to get lung cancer or die from lung cancer than those who do not smoke. No matter your age, it’s never too late to quit. If you need help, join our Smoking Cessation Program.
  • Avoid secondhand smoke. Even if you don’t smoke, you have an increased risk of lung cancer if you frequently breathe in smoke from other people’s cigarettes, pipes, or cigars. When you breathe in secondhand smoke, it’s like you’re smoking, too.
  • Test your home for radon. This naturally occurring gas comes from dirt and rocks and cannot be seen, tasted, or smelled. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), radon causes about 20,000 lung cancer cases each year. This makes radon the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. Nearly one 1 in 15 homes in the United States is thought to have high radon levels. You can find radon test kits online or in home improvement stores.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Striving for a healthy weight has endless benefits, including reducing your risk of certain cancers. Need help losing weight? You don’t have to go at it alone. We’re here to help.
  • Eat healthily. Choose a diet that emphasizes plant sources, has minimal processed and red meats, includes five or more servings of fruit and vegetables each day, and contains whole grains.
  • Stay active. Getting at least an hour of physical activity each day is a great way to maintain a healthy weight and promote overall wellness.

Lung Cancer Symptoms

See your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms, which might indicate lung cancer:

  • A cough that won’t go away or gets worse
  • Worsening chest pain with deep breaths, coughing, or laughing
  • Coughing up blood or rust-colored phlegm
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Feeling tired or weak
  • Hoarseness
  • Recurring infections like bronchitis or pneumonia
  • New onset of wheezing

Additionally, lung cancer that has spread to other parts of the body can cause:

  • Bone pain
  • Nervous system changes, such a headaches, dizziness, balance problems, or seizures if cancer has spread to the brain or spinal cord
  • Yellowing of the skin or eyes
  • Lumps near the surface of the body if cancer has spread to the skin or lymph nodes

Early Detection=Increased Survival

Studies have shown that lung cancer deaths can be reduced by 20 percent when at-risk individuals participate in a lung CT cancer screening program. If you’re a current or former smoker between the ages of 55-77 who has smoked at least 30 pack years, you may be eligible for Frederick Health’s lung cancer screening program.

To calculate pack years, multiply the number of cigarette packs you smoke each day by the number of years you’ve smoked. For example, if you smoked two packs a day for 15 years, you’ve smoked 30 pack years.

Our lung cancer screening service is free to eligible patients. After your screening, you and your primary care provider will review the results and recommendations based on your screening. A multidisciplinary team of radiologists and thoracic surgeons review all positive CT lung scans.

You are not eligible to participate in the screening program if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Coughing up blood
  • Chest pain
  • Severe shortness of breath
  • Hoarseness
  • Unintentional weight loss

To learn more about our Low Dose Lung CT Screening Program at the James M Stockman Cancer Institute, review our lung cancer screening FAQs or call 301-694-LUNG (5864). Schedule your screening today.