Lung cancer is the most likely cause of a cancer death in America. It kills more people each year than breast, prostate, and colon cancer combined. Each day about 433 Americans will die of some form of lung cancer. Although occurring most frequently in people ages 65 or older, two percent of those 45 or younger will be diagnosed.
So why is it so deadly? Like many other cancers, detecting lung cancer can be difficult. There are often no early signs, and when there are symptoms, it is usually in the form of a later stage of lung cancer or because the disease has spread.
Lung Cancer Causes and Risk Factors
Smokers account for more than 80 percent of lung cancer deaths. Your risk of lung cancer can increase the more you smoke and the longer you smoke.
But second-hand smoke may also raise your risk of lung cancer. Research suggests that some people are more susceptible to the cancer-causing effects of tobacco smoke than other people, which may explain why some older people don’t develop lung cancer even after smoking for years. Other risk factors can include:
- Radon exposure
- Asbestos exposure
- Air pollution
- Family history of lung cancers
Lung Cancer Signs and Symptoms
Every cancer case is different, but symptoms should never be ignored. Warning signs may include:
- Noticeable voice change; hoarseness
- A cough that does not go away
- Chest pain that is often worse when deep breathing, coughing, or laughing
- Feeling tired or weak
- Wheezing that does not go away
- Appetite and weight loss
- Shortness of breath
- Coughing up blood
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Lung Cancer Screenings and Treatment
New technologies to treat and screen for lung cancer are available, and researchers are always working on new ways to screen for and treat this disease. Screening for lung cancer has been shown to reduce the death rate from lung cancer and should be part of routine health care maintenance.
Even if you are in fairly good health, you should have a lung cancer screening as you get older, especially if you:
- Are 55 to 74 years old
- Smoke or quit smoking within the last 15 years
UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, partner with University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, has been at the forefront of research of lung and esophageal. To learn more about UPMC Hillman Cancer Center or to schedule an appointment, please call 412-623-LUNG (5864) or visit the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center website.