Since November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, I want to talk to you about preventing lung cancer. It’s important to detect lung cancer in its earliest stage because the sooner you know your family’s history with the disease or your risks factors, the sooner you can take preventative measures.
First of all, people who meet specific risk criteria have a higher chance of developing lung cancer. The GO2 Foundation, the leading nonprofit organization raising funds for researching this disease, list the following factors for an elevated risk of developing lung cancer: being between the ages of 55-80, smoking 1 pack a day for 30 years or 2 packs a day for 15 years, and being a current smoker or having quit within the last 15 years. In fact, the United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends that anyone who meets these criteria ask their doctor about lung cancer screening.
Smoking isn’t that bad, is it?
According to statistics listed on the GO2 Foundation’s website, smoking causes 80-85% of lung cancer in the U.S. Not only is the risk that high, but it increases with the number of years and packs per day that a person smokes. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention also states that cigarette smoking is the number one risk factor for lung cancer.
I don’t smoke, so I’m in the clear, right?
Even if you don’t smoke, you should still consider getting screened. Here’s why: age, gender, and family history.
In the United States, the average age for a lung cancer diagnosis is approximately 70 years old. You might be surprised to know that about 10% of lung cancer cases happen in people younger than 50 years old. Overall, the older you are, the higher chance you face of developing some form of cancer.
A range of studies suggest that anyone who has or had a parent or sibling with lung cancer, especially someone who was diagnosed before they turned 50 years old, or even has multiple relatives who were diagnosed with the disease, hold a much higher risk for lung cancer.
Gender: The Most Important Lung Cancer Risk Factor
Did you know that among nonsmokers, women are more likely than men to develop lung cancer? It’s true—in 2014, Harvard Medical School published an article that said that although historically, women have never smoked in the same numbers as men, they account for nearly half the new cases of the disease.
Here is the good news about women and lung cancer: researchers have found that women, especially nonsmokers, tend to respond better to certain therapies. So, always keep in mind that one of the most valuable methods for dealing with a diagnosis is to remind yourself and your loved ones about the power and tenacity you hold within yourself.
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What can you do to prevent lung cancer?
First and foremost: if you smoke, now is as best a time as ever to quit. If you don’t smoke, but find yourself surrounded by second-hand smoke, consider the ways in which you can have an open and honest conversation with the people around you about how you can support them in quitting smoking, or how they can help you stay safe from the harmful effects of tobacco smoke. Check out these tips and resources from the American Lung Association on how to quit smoking.
Next, be sure to talk to your parents and grandparents about what illnesses run in the family. When you have a sense of the diseases you might have a higher risk of developing, talk to your doctor about getting screened. Watch this video about what’s it’s like to get screened for lung cancer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=npxZVYgrYro&feature=youtu.be
Remember: even if you don’t smoke and are under the age of 55, women face a higher lung cancer risk. On the bright side, there is an amazing community of Change Makers who support all lung cancer patients and survivors!
Let’s help each other stay aware of cancer risks and how to prevent the disease. And feel free to explore all of my designs to support survivors and those at risk.
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