Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in both men and women. Unfortunately, it often goes undetected until later stages of the disease, when it has already started wreaking havoc on your body—only about 16% of lung cancer cases are caught early.
Although current and former smokers are most at risk, anyone can get lung cancer. That’s why it’s important to know the signs of the disease and get screened if you qualify. This may make it more likely that lung cancer will be detected at an early stage, when it’s most treatable.
Symptoms of Lung Cancer
Although symptoms typically don’t appear at the earliest stages, the most common signs of lung cancer are:
- A persistent cough
- Coughing up blood or rust-colored spit
- Chest pain that is often worse with deep breathing, coughing, or laughing
- Loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss
- Shortness of breath or wheezing
- Feeling tired or weak
- Recurrent infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia
If you have these symptoms, see a doctor quickly and ask about getting screened for lung cancer. The earlier lung cancer is diagnosed, the higher the odds of long-term survival after diagnosis.
Lung Cancer Screening
Since lung cancer symptoms usually don’t appear early, screening is the best way to get ahead of it. The recommended screening test is a low-dose CT (LDCT) scan. The American Cancer Society® recommends that people at high risk for lung cancer get this screening done yearly.
High-risk individuals need to meet all of the following criteria to qualify for screening:
- Be 50-80 years old and in fairly good health
- Currently smoke or have quit in the past 15 years
- Have smoked an average of at least one pack a day for the last 20 years
Get a Lung Cancer Screening
You don't need to be a UVA patient to get screened. You do need a doctor's referral.
It’s not always possible to prevent lung cancer, but there are things you can do to lower your risk. The number one thing is to stay away from all tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and e-cigarettes.
If you currently smoke, it’s never too late to quit. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. Also try to avoid second-hand smoke. Smoking is the leading preventable cause of lung cancer, causing 80-90% of all lung cancer deaths.
In addition to not smoking, a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables may help reduce risk. You can also reduce your risk by:
- Getting your home tested for radon
- Avoiding potential carcinogens (cancer-causing agents) at work
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