It’s Lung Cancer Awareness Month. In order to raise awareness, it’s important to understand the facts behind the disease and how you and your loved ones can reduce their risk and make a difference in their health.
According to the American Lung Association, “Approximately 415,000 Americans living today have been diagnosed with lung cancer at some point in their lives.” Lung cancer affects thousands of men and women every year in the United States and around the world. The survival rate for this type of cancer is also much lower than others, resulting in a five-year survival rate of 17.7%, according to the American Lung Association.
According to the American Lung Association, symptoms for lung cancer are not usually displayed until the later stages of cancer development. However, symptoms can include the following:
• “A cough that doesn’t go away and gets worse over time”
• “A chronic cough or ‘smoker’s cough’”
• “Constant chest pain”
• “Shortness of breath or wheezing”
• “Frequent lung infections such as bronchitis or pneumonia”
• “Coughing up blood”
Cancers can spread quickly to other parts of the body, resulting in a variety of other cancer-related symptoms, so it’s important to be on the look-out, take control of your health, and talk to your doctor if you experience any of the above symptoms.
Lung cancer can be developed from a variety of different ways, but nearly 90% of cases result from tobacco smoking of any kind, according to WebMD. WebMD continues to say that other ways one can develop lung cancer include exposure to second-hand smoke, exposure to asbestos fibers, radon gas, air pollution, other lung diseases, and genetics.
Additionally, other risk factors include gender and racial/ethnic differences. According to American Lung Association, “More men are diagnosed with lung cancer each year, but more women live with the disease. The rate of new cases in 2013 showed that men develop lung cancer more often than women (60.7 and 47.7 per 100,000, respectively).” As far as ethnic/racial differences, the article states that “Black men and women are more likely to develop and die from lung cancer than persons of any other racial or ethnic group” with an incidence rate of 28% more than white men.
How to Reduce Your Risk
The more often you smoke, the higher your chances are of developing lung cancer. The most important thing you can do for your health, if you are a smoker, is to quit right away, or if you’re not a smoker, to never start. The Harrisburg Area YMCA offers free tobacco cessation programs for individuals who need help and support to quit tobacco use for good.
In addition, Mayo Clinic states that to reduce your risk of lung cancer, you can:
• “Avoid second-hand smoke”
• “Test your home for radon”
• “Avoid carcinogens at work”
• “Eat a diet full of fruits and vegetables”
• “Exercise most days of the week”
Though a very small percentage of lung cancer patients develop the disease from a familial predisposition, the very large majority of cases involve exposure to the above risk factors. Thus, taking these steps to reduce your risk will be highly beneficial to your health.
If you have battled lung cancer already, the Harrisburg Area YMCA also offers LiveSTRONG at the YMCA cancer survivor programs to individuals who have or are currently undergoing cancer treatment. The program helps participants improve their strength and physical fitness, diminish the severity of therapy side effects, develop supportive relationships, and improve their quality of life. Continue to visit our website HERE to see upcoming sessions, dates, and locations.
This November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. So, let’s spread awareness for this disease and encourage our neighbors and loved ones to put their health first and reduce their risk for developing lung cancer.
–Emily Sanville, Digital Communications Coordinator