By Keith D. Mortman, M.D., F.A.C.S., F.C.C.P., Associate Professor of Surgery at The George Washington University School of Medicine & Health Sciences and Director, Thoracic Surgery at The George Washington University Hospital
This year, 221,200 people in the United States will be told “You have lung cancer.” Slightly more than half of these people (roughly 115,000) will be men. 1 out of 13 men will be diagnosed with lung cancer during his lifetime.
The key to a favorable outcome is early diagnosis. The 5-year survival rate (the percentage of patients alive 5 years after diagnosis) for stage 1A non-small cell lung cancer (the earliest stage of the most common form of lung cancer) is approximately 85-90% for those having surgery at experienced centers. Understanding your risk factors and discussing these with your physician may lead to an early diagnosis or give you peace of mind that you are lung cancer free.
Risk factors for lung cancer:
- Current or former cigarette smoker
- Secondhand exposure to tobacco
- Occupational exposure (metal workers, painters, cleaners, plumbers and pipe fitters, welders, construction workers)
- Radon exposure
- Prior radiation
- Family history of lung cancer
A study published in 2011 in the New England Journal of Medicine (the National Lung Screening Trial) found that there was a 20% reduction in lung cancer deaths when patients were screened with a low-dose CT scan (compared to a plain chest x-ray). Since this was a screening examination, it means that patients had no signs or symptoms of lung cancer—they simply had known risk factors.
In addition to being aware of your risk for lung cancer, you should also contact your physician if you exhibit any of the common lung cancer symptoms below.
- A new, unremitting cough (or a change in a chronic cough)
- Coughing up blood (hemoptysis)
- Shortness of breath (dyspnea)
- New chest pain
- Recurrent pneumonias
- Unexplained weight loss
Click here to find out if you are at risk for lung cancer. If you would like to talk with someone on the phone, call our HelpLine at 1-800-298-2436. Or meet with a Healthcare Professional in-person at a national Screening Centers of Excellence to find out if a low-dose screening CT scan is right for you.
If you have recently been diagnosed with lung cancer, you have options. Not all treatments are right for every person but learning about the possibilities can help you have an informed discussion with your doctor. Click here to learn about treatment options.