About Lung Cancer
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in women and men in the United States, claiming more lives each year than breast, prostate, colon and cancers combined. More than 220,000 people in the United States are expected to be diagnosed in 2011.
Small cell and non-small cell lung cancer are the most common types of lung cancer. Non-small cell is the more common of the two, making up nearly 85% of all cases, and tends to spread more slowly than small cell lung cancer. Treatment for the disease depends upon the stage and type of lung cancer, and can include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and, in some cases, targeted drugs that are aimed at the particular make-up of the cancer tumor.
Unfortunately, lung cancer usually has no distinct symptoms during its earliest and most curable stages. Whenever symptoms do appear, they often include a chronic cough, coughing up blood, chest pain, hoarseness, swelling of the face or neck, or ongoing pneumonia or bronchitis. Any signs of these may warrant a visit to a physician, along with a discussion of possible CT screening to confirm a lung cancer diagnosis.
Although early detection remains the key to improving prognoses for outcomes, there is currently no early detection lung cancer screening that has been approved by the medical establishment or health insurance companies. A 2010 study sponsored by the National Cancer Institute did, however, show a significant reduction in lung cancer deaths in patients whose disease was first detected using CT scans, compared to standard chest X-rays. If you believe you are at risk for lung cancer, or think you might exhibit symptoms of the disease, please visit your healthcare provider immediately for evaluation.
While smoking is generally accepted as one of the most common contributing factors for lung cancer diagnoses, the larger truth is that anyone can get lung cancer, including people who never smoked. Statistics show that 18% of those diagnosed with lung cancer are never smokers, 60% are former smokers, many of whom quit decades before, and only 21% are current smokers. Obviously, the long held belief that quitting smoking eliminates the risk of lung cancer is not true. But perhaps what is even more surprising are studies which show that contrary to popular belief, only 10% of smokers will actually develop lung cancer during their lifetime.
Much more research is needed to understand why the vast majority of those with long and addictive smoking histories often avoid lung cancer, while those with limited smoking histories or entirely smoking-free histories sometimes do develop the disease. Genetic variations and environmental factors are often cited as causes for the differences, but, again, there have not been enough scientific studies to definitively pinpoint a reason.
While more treatment options are available to lung cancer patients today than five or ten years ago, these options are not nearly enough. Only 15% of lung cancer patients live five years beyond their diagnosis, compared to 99% of prostate cancer patients, 90% breast cancer patients, and 66% of colorectal cancer patients.
By increasing the recognition of lung cancer as a pandemic disease that negatively affects the health of people everywhere, whether they are smokers or not, Lung Cancer Connection is hopeful that more funding will be directed to lung research, ultimately revealing its cause(s) and leading to vastly more effective treatments and a cure.