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Learn About Lung Cancer

FAQs: Understanding Lung Cancer

What are the symptoms of lung cancer? Do they usually appear when the disease is advanced?

Yes. Symptoms often do not appear until the cancer is advanced. These include persistent cough, sputum streaked with blood, chest pain, voice change, worsening shortness of breath, and recurring pneumonia or bronchitis.

Who is at risk for acquiring lung cancer?

Lung cancer is the leading cancer killer in both men and women in the world. In 2017, the latest year for which incidence data is available, 221,121 new cases of lung and bronchus cancer were reported in the U.S., and 145,849 people died of this cancer. For every 100,000 people, 55 new lung and bronchus cancer cases were reported, and 37 people died of this cancer.

In Maryland in 2017, the incidence of lung cancer was 54.6 per 100,000 with 36.1 deaths per 100,000 people. In Frederick County, between 2010-2014 the incidence of lung cancer was 48.1 in 100,000, and 37.9 people per 100,000 died of lung cancer.

The greatest risk factor for lung cancer is smoking. However, other risk factors include exposure to radon, secondhand smoke, asbestos (particularly among smokers), certain metals (chromium, cadmium, arsenic), some organic chemicals, radiation, air pollution, and diesel exhaust. Specific occupational exposures that increase risk include rubber manufacturing, paving, roofing, painting, and chimney sweeping.

Is radon exposure a contributing factor to lung cancer?

Yes. Exposure to radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer, accounting for an estimated 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year. Radon is a tasteless, colorless, and odorless gas that is released from soil and can accumulate in indoor air. The majority of these deaths occur in people who smoke as well, placing them at higher risk.

If I’ve never smoked, does this mean I am at low risk for lung cancer?

No. Cigarette smoking is by far the most important risk factor for lung cancer; 81 percent of lung cancer deaths in the U.S. are still caused by smoking. Risk increases with both the quantity and duration of smoking. Cigar and pipe smoking also increase risk.

Is it true that people are smoking less because of greater awareness of the effects of smoking?

Yes. The incidence rate has been declining since the mid-1980s in men, but only since the mid-2000s in women because of gender differences in historical patterns of smoking uptake and cessation. The decline has gained momentum in the past decade, with rates decreasing from 2011 to 2015 by almost 3 percent per year in men and 1.5 percent per year in women.

Can vitamin supplements decrease my risk of acquiring lung cancer?

No. Studies looking at the possible role of vitamin supplements in reducing lung cancer risk have had disappointing results. In fact, two large studies found that smokers who took beta carotene supplements actually had an increased risk of lung cancer. The results of these studies suggest that smokers should avoid taking beta carotene supplements.

What is the best way to detect lung cancer?

Early detection, by low-dose CT screening, can decrease lung cancer mortality by 14 to 20 percent among high-risk populations. In most cases, however, lung cancer is not detected early enough.

About 8 million Americans qualify as high risk for lung cancer and are recommended to receive annual screening with low dose CT scans.

If halfofthese high-risk individuals were screened, more than 12,000 lung cancer deaths could be prevented.

You may be eligible for Frederick Health’s lung cancer screening program if:


What can I do to prevent lung cancer?

Take action to reduce your risk of developing lung cancer.

  • Be tobacco-free.
  • Avoid secondhand smoke.
  • Limit alcohol consumption.
  • Maintain a healthy weight throughout your life.
  • Consume a healthy diet that:
    • Emphasizes plant sources.
    • Supports a healthy weight.
    • Includes five or more servings of fruits and vegetables.
    • Includes whole grains rather than processed (or refined).
    • Has minimal processed and red meats.
  • Adopt a physically active lifestyle.
  • Protect yourself from the sun and indoor tanning.
  • Talk to your primary healthcare provider about signs and symptoms, screening options, and vaccines.
  • Maintain healthcare coverage.
  • Have your home tested for radon.

Get the Word Out

Anyone can raise awareness about lung cancer. Get involved and help us spread the word. Here are a few ideas:

  • Share this information on your social media outlets and other networks.
  • Host an event in your community and share local health resources.
  • Start a conversation about lung cancer—with your friends, family, and doctor.
  • Get screened for lung cancer, if you are eligible, and encourage anyone at high risk in your life to get screeneed.

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