Your lungs circulate freshly oxygenated air through your body, keeping your heart, brain and other vital organs functioning. They are vital to your existence, and they are also vulnerable to cancer due to environmental pollutants that are breathed into the lungs through the respiratory process.
The five-year survival rate for lung cancer is only 16 percent. In fact, this year lung cancer will claim more lives than pancreas, breast and colorectal cancers combined.
Stopping Lung Cancer Before It Starts
The best thing you can do to prevent lung cancer is to never smoke cigarettes. The second best options are to quit smoking if you smoke and avoid secondhand smoke.
What’s the big deal about smoking? It contributes to 90 percent of lung cancer deaths in men and 80 percent in women. Research shows that female smokers are 13 times more likely to develop lung cancer than female nonsmokers.
Even nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke have up to a 30 percent greater chance of developing lung cancer than nonsmokers who aren’t exposed. Secondhand smoke causes about 7,000 lung cancer deaths among nonsmokers every year.
Though former smokers still have a greater risk of cancer than nonsmokers, 10 years after quitting, their risk is half that of a person who is still smoking. Smoking cessation also produces a host of other benefits, including:
• Lowered risk of cervical, mouth, throat, esophageal, bladder and pancreatic cancer
• Decreased chance of developing coronary heart disease
• Lowered blood pressure
• Improved blood flow and blood vessel function
The sooner you quit, the sooner the harmful effects of smoking begin to reverse. Health improvements begin within 20 minutes of your last cigarette.
If You Qualify, Get Screened
Low-dose computed tomography (CT) scanning can be used as a screening tool to detect lung cancer before symptoms begin to appear. The American Lung Association recommends that current or former smokers between the ages of 55–74 who meet the following criteria be screened:
• Smoking history of at least 30 pack-years (or an average of two packs a day for 15 years, a pack a day for 30 years, or half a pack a day for 60 years, etc.)
• No a history of lung cancer
If you are a current or former smoker, talk with your physician about whether or not you would benefit from this screening.