November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. According to the Centers for Disease Control, cigarette smoking is linked to about 80% to 90% of lung cancer deaths in the United States. Secondhand smoke (smoke from other people’s cigarettes, pipes, or cigars), radon gas, which occurs naturally from rocks and dirt, and substances such as asbestos, arsenic, diesel exhaust, silica, and chromium can also cause lung cancer.
Now that you know these causes of lung cancer, CDC recommends doing the following to reduce your risk for lung cancer:
For smokers who have struggled to quit, Mayo Clinic's Nicotine Dependence Center offers caring and non-judgmental support and works to help you develop the skills needed to stop using tobacco.
According to the Mayo Clinic website, lung cancer screening is a process that's used to detect the presence of lung cancer in otherwise healthy people with a high risk of lung cancer. Doctors use a low-dose computerized tomography (LDCT) scan of the lungs to look for lung cancer. If lung cancer is detected at an early stage, it's more likely to be cured with treatment.
You should discuss the benefits and risks of lung cancer screening using LDCT with your health care provider. Mayo Clinic notes that lung cancer screening is usually reserved for people with the greatest risk of lung cancer, including:
For example, a person with 30 pack years of smoking history may have smoked a pack a day for 30 years, two packs a day for 15 years or three-quarters of a pack a day for 40 years. Even if your smoking habits changed over the years, your recollection about your smoking history can be used to determine whether lung cancer screening may be beneficial for you.
Screening is generally not recommended for those who have poor lung function or other serious conditions that would make surgery difficult. Mayo Clinic's lung cancer screening website indicates this might include:
Together, you and your health care provider can decide whether screening is right for you.
If you and your health care provider determine you are a candidate for lung cancer screening, the obvious next question is, how long should you continue to be screened for lung cancer? Unfortunately, there is no specific consensus at what age lung cancer screening should be stopped. In general, you should continue annual lung cancer screening until you are unlikely to benefit from screening, such as if a serious health condition has been diagnosed.
For additional information about lung cancer and lung cancer screening:
CDC: Lung Cancer Screening Quiz – 4 questions about lung cancer screening
Dr. Shanda Blackmon, a thoracic surgeon at Mayo Clinic, explains lung cancer screening and surgical options for treating the disease, September 2018
Have you been screened for lung cancer or participated in a lung cancer screening trial? What has been your experience with lung cancer screening? Feel free to share your experiences here.
Find support from people like you in the Mayo Clinic Connect Lung Cancer group or in the discussion on trying to quit smoking while undergoing medical treatment.