November is National Lung Cancer Awareness Month and we would like to remind everyone of the dismal numbers and statistics associated with this disease. A lot has been achieved, but a lot more needs to be done! Lets join hands and work towards making lung cancer a chronically manageable disease! As the month of November brings lung cancer into focus, it’s time to increase public understanding of the disease, including its prevalence, approaches to screening and prevention, treatment options, and resources that offer updated lung cancer information throughout the year.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that in 2009 there will be 219,440 new cases of lung cancer; this will make up about 15% of cancer diagnoses overall. Lung cancer, which is classified for treatment purposes as small cell or non–small cell, accounts for the most cancer-related deaths in both men and women, according to the ACS. Lung cancer deaths for 2009 are estimated to total 159,390, which is about 28% of all cancer deaths.
The lungs are a pair of cone-shaped breathing organs inside the chest. The lungs bring oxygen into the body when breathing in and send carbon dioxide out of the body when breathing out. The two main types of lung cancer are non-small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer. The types are based on the way the cells look under a microscope. Non-small cell lung cancer is much more common than small cell lung cancer. Most cases of lung cancer are caused by smoking. Lung cancer is the leading cause of death from cancer in the U.S.
Lung cancer typically doesn’t cause signs and symptoms in its earliest stages. Signs and symptoms of lung cancer typically occur only when the disease is advanced. If you smoke and have been unable to quit, make an appointment with your doctor. Your doctor can recommend strategies for quitting smoking, such as counseling, medications and nicotine replacement products. At first your body may be able to repair this damage. But with each repeated exposure, normal cells that line your lungs are increasingly damaged. Over time, the damage causes cells to act abnormally and eventually cancer may develop.
Several organizations recommend people with an increased risk of lung cancer consider annual computerized tomography (CT) scans to look for lung cancer. If you’re 55 or older and smoke or used to smoke, talk with your doctor about the benefits and risks of lung cancer screening. Some studies show lung cancer screening saves lives by finding cancer earlier, when it may be treated more successfully. But other studies find that lung cancer screening often reveals more benign conditions that may require invasive testing and expose people to unnecessary risks and worry.
Once your lung cancer has been diagnosed, your doctor will work to determine the extent (stage) of your cancer. Your cancer’s stage helps you and your doctor decide what treatment is most appropriate. You and your doctor choose a cancer treatment plan based on a number of factors, such as your overall health, the type and stage of your cancer, and your preferences. Options typically include one or more treatments, including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy or targeted drug therapy. In some cases you may choose not to undergo treatment.