How to Prevent Lung Cancer: The Importance of Screening and Awareness

Worldwide, the leading cause of cancer-related fatalities is lung cancer. While this cancer is most associated with smokers, the disease can affect any person, even those who have never smoked.

For many, symptoms of lung cancer aren’t prevalent until the disease has advanced. Repeated bouts of pneumonia and enlarged lymph nodes in the chest are some of the most common changes to first occur when the cancer has metastasized. However, the most common symptoms include chronic coughing, shortness of breath, chest pain, unexplained weight loss, chronic fatigue, wheezing, and coughing up blood.

Lung Cancer Prevention

One way to help prevent lung cancer is to quit smoking (or not start). This is because the quantity and frequency of cigarettes inhaled are directly related to the chance of developing lung cancer, with the risk increasing the more you smoke. You can greatly lower your risk of developing the disease by quitting ASAP and/or avoiding exposure to secondhand smoke.

One of the next easiest ways to prevent lung-cancer is limiting long-term exposure to radon.  Exposure to radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. Radon is a radioactive gas you cannot see, smell, feel, or taste. Radon can be found in homes through infiltration from soil. Therefore, it is encouraged to regularly have your basements, cellars, and other living spaces close to the ground assessed to make sure they are safe. In extreme cases, radon can also work its way into drinking water.

You can hire a professional to identify if your home has problematic radon concentration levels. DIY detection kits are also available at most home supply stores. Health experts will recommend having a professional with the right equipment and technical knowledge to reduce radon levels in your home. Exposure to other substances has been linked to an increased risk for lung cancer, including asbestos and carcinogens like chromium, arsenic, and nickel.

Lung Cancer Screening

Even if you haven’t been exposed to carcinogenic substances, a family history of lung cancer could put you at an increased risk of developing the disease.

Low-dose computed tomography (low-dose CT scan, or LDCT) is the screening method recommended by health experts to detect lung cancer. The procedure involves a low radiation dose and an X-ray machine that will take precise images of your lungs. The scan is painless and only takes a few minutes.

Lung cancer screening with LDCT is only recommended for people who meet all the following criteria: 

  • Current smokers or those who have quit within the past 15 years
  • People between the ages of 50 and 80-years-old
  • Have a history of smoking a pack day for the past 20 years

A “pack-year” is smoking one pack of cigarettes per day for one year. So, if you have been smoking one pack of cigarettes each day for the last 20 years, you have a 20-pack-year smoking history.

Screening for lung cancer is no longer recommended for people after age 80. It is also no longer recommended to get screening if you have not smoked within the last 15 years.

For more information about lung cancer screening, get in touch with your primary care physician to learn about options. Contact Tampa Bay Radiation Oncology today for the latest treatment procedures, including CyberKnife. Tampa Bay Radiation Oncology has multiple facilities located in the Tampa Bay area. Click HERE for more information.