The facts about lung cancer prevention and screening

If you or a loved one needs help to quit smoking, AdventHealth Shawnee Mission offers the Freedom From Smoking® Program.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women in the United States, according to the American Lung Association. November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month and an ideal time to learn about lung cancer prevention, symptoms and screening options available.

We know that not smoking is the best way to prevent lung cancer, but it’s also necessary to avoid exposure to second-hand smoke, radon gas and asbestos. Here’s some important information to know:

  • The CDC estimates that second-hand smoke exposure causes more than 7,300 lung cancer deaths among non-smokers.
  • Although the use of asbestos has declined in the US over the years, exposure to this dangerous mineral at work can still be an issue in some industries.
  • With the link between radon and lung cancer, many people choose to have their homes tested for radon to be sure they are not unknowingly being exposed to the harmful gas.

Another potential culprit could be vaping. Experts do not know the long-term effects vaping has on our lungs, but according to Brandon Bowers, MD, pulmonologist with AdventHealth Shawnee Mission, doctors are starting to see more cases of e-cigarette/vaping acute lung injury (EVALI).

“EVALI is likely an inflammatory response to the chemicals that are inhaled as part of the vaping unit,” said Dr. Bowers. “The degree of severity can vary from mild to severe requiring hospitalization in the ICU and even the need for mechanical ventilation. Our stance is to avoid e-cigarettes and vaping as there is so much we still do not know about long-term effects.”

Some of the more common symptoms of lung cancer include cough, coughing up blood, shortness of breath, chest pain and abnormal weight loss. However many times lung cancer does not cause symptoms until the cancer has spread, which is why early detection is key. Doctors want to encourage screening before people experience symptoms.

Physicians now have access to a relatively new test called a low-dose computed tomography (CT) screening that takes a detailed image of your lungs, allowing physicians to find small, early stage lung cancers that are not always seen on traditional X-rays.

“For a long period of time, we did not have reliable screening for lung cancer,” said Dr. Bowers. “However in the late 2000s, a large trial was completed showing that an annual low dose screening CT in certain high risk populations could provide improvement in mortality.”

Speak with your doctor about scheduling a low-dose CT lung cancer screening appointment if you:

  • Are a current smoker or a smoker who quit within the last 15 years
  • Are between 55 and 77 years old
  • Have a 30-year pack-year history, which is calculated by multiplying the number of years smoked by the number of packs smoked in a day. For example, if you smoked one pack of cigarettes a day for 30 years or two packs a day for 15 years, you have a 30-year pack history.
  • Are being exposed to second-hand smoke, radon gas or asbestos
  • Have a family history of lung cancer.

If you or a loved one needs help to quit smoking, AdventHealth Shawnee Mission offers the Freedom From Smoking® Program. This seven-week, eight-session group program was developed by the American Lung Association and is one of the most successful quit programs available. A trained instructor will provide the extra support needed to kick the habit for good. Visit AdventHealthKC.com/wellness or call 913-676-7777 (option 2) for more information.