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Gros: Lung cancer kills more people than breast, colon & pancreatic cancers combined

Lung cancer accounts for 27 percent of all cancer deaths, making it the deadliest cancer.

November is National Lung Cancer Awareness Month – and it’s a great time to learn more about how to prevent or manage this disease, which is expected to claim over 154,000 lives in 2018.

Lung cancer kills more people than breast, colon and pancreatic cancers combined. One reason is that this kind of cancer is often not detected until it’s in its later stages, when treatment becomes more challenging.

The news isn’t all bad. By taking certain steps, you may be able to reduce your risk of lung cancer, and screenings can help detect the disease early on, increasing survival chances.

Are You at Risk?

Smoking is far and above the number one risk factor for lung cancer. As a smoker, your risk of developing this type of cancer is much higher than for non-smokers.

This risk increases greatly the more you smoke, and the longer you smoke.

While cigarette smoking is certainly a major risk factor for lung cancer, so is pipe or cigar smoking. Secondhand smoke is also a problem.

The American Cancer Society estimates that secondhand smoke claims over 7,000 lives annually.

There are other risk factors for lung cancer, including radon gas and asbestos exposure, air pollution, treatment with radiation, and having a history of other lung diseases – but 80 percent of all lung cancer deaths are directly related to smoking.

It’s a statistic that’s impossible to ignore. So, what can you do to lower your risk of lung cancer?

If You Smoke, Stop (It’s Not Too Late)

As a smoker, you know your risk of lung cancer is high. Smoking is by far the main cause of the disease. Perhaps you’ve tried to quit smoking unsuccessfully in the past?

Don’t give up. Many times, smokers try to quit multiple times before they succeed.

It’s important to know that it is never, ever too late to quit. When you quit smoking, you’ll begin to enjoy health benefits immediately.

• Within 20 minutes, your blood pressure and pulse will return to normal.

• Eight hours later, your carbon monoxide and oxygen levels will return to normal.

• Nerve endings will begin to re-grow, and your ability to smell and taste will be enhanced within 48 hours.

• Your circulation and breathing will improve 2-12 weeks after you stop smoking.

• At one year, your risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker.

If you need motivation, consider your health. Five years after you quit smoking, your risk of stroke and cancers of the mouth, throat, and esophagus is half that of a smoker.

And 10 years later? Your life expectancy will be comparable to a non-smoker.

Quit Smoking for Life

If you feel like you need help quitting smoking, Thibodaux Regional Medical Center offers a  smoking cessation program. The “Quit Smoking for Life” program can help you find the best way to quit for you. We offer help with medications, along with group or individual coaching.

You’ll learn specific coping methods to help you get through the toughest of urges. And, if you need extra help, we also offer special “Quit Line” one-on-one coaching.

To enroll in the Quit Smoking for Life program, or to learn more, call 985-449-4686.

Screenings Can Save Lives (Lung Cancer CT Scan)

Often, lung cancer symptoms don’t surface until the disease is in its later stages. This is why screenings are so critical. Finding the disease early may make it easier to treat, and possibly cure.

And a low-dose CT lung scan is the only proven, effective way to screen for lung cancer. Often, this CT scan will detect lung cancer at its earliest stages – where regular chest X-rays won’t.

If you are a smoker, or a former smoker who has quit within the 15 years, and if you are between the ages of 55-77, you should talk to your doctor about getting a lung CT scan. This potentially life-saving screening is painless and done on an outpatient basis.

In fact, this type of CT scan only takes about 30 minutes, and it can detect even the smallest of cancer nodes – increasing your chances of early diagnosis.

This month is all about lung cancer awareness. If you are at high risk for this deadly disease, finding it early can literally save your life. Quit smoking now, and talk to your doctor about whether a lung cancer CT scan is right for you.

If you have questions about Lung Cancer or CT scans, contact the Cancer Center of Thibodaux Regional at 985-493-4008.

Laura Gros, RN, is the patient care coordinator at the Cancer Center of Thibodaux Regional. Call 985-493-4008.