Each day, lung cancer takes the lives of more than 382 people in the United States. An estimated 235,000 new cases of lung cancer will also develop by end of year.
However, while the disease remains the leading cause of cancer deaths among both men and women, there is hope. According to The American Lung Association’s State of Lung Cancer annual report the survival rate has increased by 14% nationally to 23.7%.
November is Lung Cancer Awareness month and Intermountain Healthcare physicians are emphasizing the key to surviving lung cancer is screening and early detection.
“It’s important to get screened, because once symptoms occur it may already be too late,” said Virginia Litle, MD, director of thoracic surgery at Intermountain Healthcare. “However, if caught early, there is a good chance of curing the cancer.”
In Utah, just 2% of those at high risk were screened, which is significantly lower than the national rate of 6%. Utah also ranks 47th among all states when it comes to screening for lung cancer, placing it in the bottom tier.
Who should be screened?
Intermountain doctors estimate that nearly 80% of lung cancer might have gone into remission if it had been caught in the earlier stages of the disease. For people who are 55-80 years old, and have smoked for 20-30 years, or have other risk factors, yearly screenings are recommended.
If you fall into one of those categories, contact your primary care provider about receiving a low-dose CT screening.
“Using low amounts of radiation, it provides detailed images of your lungs in a matter of a minutes,” said Dr. Litle. “It’s a painless procedure that could save your life.”
Who is at risk?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that, beside directly inhaling tobacco smoke, other risk factors include:
- Secondhand smoke
- Air Pollution
- Family history of lung cancer
Approximately 10% to 20 % of diagnosed lung cancers in the U.S. occur in people who never smoked or smoked fewer than 100 cigarettes in their lifetime.
Unfortunately, Utah has high levels of radon throughout the state, and most people don’t even know when they are being exposed.
What is radon?
Radon is a cancer-causing radioactive gas that results from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water and gets into the air we breathe. Since it can be produced by common elements, radon gas can be a problem anywhere. Radon can get into any type of building – homes, offices, and schools. The greatest exposure is likely in the home, where we spend most of our time.
If you suspect your home might have radon, you can find a certified radon contractor or mitigation providers at radon.utah.gov.
For more information on lung cancer call the Intermountain Cancer Answers hotline to speak with a Nurse Navigator: 833-321-3332.