As most of you may already know, November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. But why would you already know? Lung cancer accounts for about 27% of all cancer deaths. Each year, more people die of lung cancer more than of colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined. It’s important to understand just how vast this disease is and the threat it poses around the world, which is why the white ribbon is dominant in the month of November.
What can you do in the month of November? It’s a small task: awareness. Most lung cancers can be prevented, as they are related to smoking or secondhand smoke. While some cases are found in those without risk factors, it is imperative to understand the preventative steps to avoiding lung cancer:
- Don’t smoke. This one is a little obvious, and easier said than done for most. But if you have never smoked, it isn’t a habit worth picking up. Talking with children about the dangers of these habits is helpful in upbringing, especially against peer pressure.
- Stop smoking. Again, it’s easy to say, never to do. You are able to talk to your doctor about strategies and stop-smoking help that can aid in your quitting. Many options are available at your nearby pharmacy.
- Avoid secondhand smoke. This is an in-the-background risk factor that many people often miss. If you live or work with a smoker who just can’t quit, you can urge them to smoke outside. Another helpful tip to avoid secondhand smoke to avoid restaurants, bars, or hotels that allow it.
- Eat a diet full of fruits and vegetables. This tip can go a long way, in all walks of life. Choosing a healthy diet chock full of vitamins and nutrients can help fight off infections and potential illnesses.
- Exercise most days of the week. This doesn’t require a full expertise in the fitness field; the Harrisburg Area YMCA offers an extension of beginner classes and well-equipped wellness centers to help you achieve your fitness goals! We have instructors willing to help every step of the way.
Being aware of the steps you can personally take for yourself can extend onto others. Unfortunately, symptoms of lung cancer don’t appear until the disease is well into an advanced stage. So what can you do to detect it early? Screening is the use of tests to find a disease in people who don’t have symptoms, such as breast cancer. Doctors have scored for decent screening tests for decades, but only recently came across a low-dose CT scan that can lower your risk of fatality.
Ever wonder why you’re asked to tell your doctor about your smoking history? It’s almost a routine, seeing that little questionnaire blurb about tobacco use. It is important to be as honest as you can with your physician so that they can route you to necessary tests to avoid lung cancer.
The following are significant risk factors to keep in mind the next time you visit your doctor or anytime in or outside of Lung Cancer Awareness Month: if you are 55-74 years old, in fairly good health, have at least a 30 pack-year smoking history, and are still actively smoking or have quit in the last 15 years, your doctor may suggest a screening. That may seem like a stretch of traits to carry, but in 2014 alone, lung cancer affected 215,951 people.
A frightening part of lung cancer diagnoses in the United States is that you don’t necessarily have to have a smoking history to be at risk. Many who have had relatives with lung cancer can be at risk, similar to breast cancer. For those without a smoking history, you can also be at-risk from asbestos or radon exposure. It’s important to be aware of this side of lung cancer because the research associated with it is incredibly under-funded. These numbers are on the climb, so Lung Cancer Awareness Month is key to ridding this fatal disease from the world.
If you have a problem with smoking, the Harrisburg Area YMCA can help you. Our Freedom from Smoking program provides Tobacco Cessation and Prevention programs at various times throughout the year to help educate the community on the dangers of smoking. We understand how hard it is to quit, which is why we want to help. Help celebrate Lung Cancer Awareness Month by knowing these facts and seeking out programs like these for those who need it.
–Madeline Kelly, Digital Communications Coordinator