Lung Cancer Awareness is observed in November of each year and reminds us of some important facts.
Lung cancer is the number one cause of death in the United States for men and women. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS) Cancer Facts and Figures 2021, an estimated 235,760 new lung cancer cases will be diagnosed in the United States in 2021 and 131,880 individuals will die from their disease.
While incidence rates have been declining across the country, there is still a lot of work to be done to educate the public about lifestyle and risk factors associated with lung cancer. Cigarette smoking continues to be the most important risk with about 80% of lung cancer deaths in the United States caused by cigarette smoking. Risk also increases with quantity and duration of the person’s smoking history as well as cigar or pipe smoking. Less talked about, but the second leading cause of lung cancer death is exposure to radon gases released from the soil that accumulates in indoor air. Other factors increasing risk include secondhand smoke exposure, asbestos, exposure to certain metals such as chromium, cadmium, or arsenic, and organic chemicals such as, radiation, air pollution or diesel exhaust. High risk occupational exposure includes individuals who work in rubber manufacturing, paving, roofing, painting, and chimney sweeping jobs.
Early detection and screening with low-dose spiral computed tomography (LDCT) has contributed to a reduction in lung cancer mortality by about 20% as compared to standard chest x-rays among current or former smokers who quit within the last 15 years, or heavy smokers with a history of at least 30-pack years. ACS reviewed the evidence-based data and updated their lung cancer screening guidelines in 2013. Annual screening is recommended for current or former smokers ages 55-74 years of age who are in relatively good health and have undergone smoking cessation counseling and have had a shared decision-making conversation with a clinician about the potential benefits and harms of screening. More recently the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPST) updated their guidelines to expand the screening recommendation to adults ages 50-80 years with a 20-pack year history of smoking.
Even more sobering is the rapid increase in vaping and e-cigarette use and advertising to minor age children and teens. While the long-term effects of vaping are under study, it is generally recognized that vaping increases a person’s risk of getting lung cancer in their lifetime since most vaping liquid contains nicotine and toxic chemicals.
Cancer Centers and hospitals, accredited or not, can help to increase awareness of lung cancer in the community by developing cancer prevention activities and outreach that address the risk factors and causes of disease. Cancer Registrars are uniquely qualified to help their cancer program teams to develop these programs and to provide population-specific information and statistics.
There are many programs and resources available today. Here are just a few educational resources that may be used for planning and patient education:
- Commission on Cancer (CoC), American College of Surgeons (ACoS)
- Lung Cancer Awareness, Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
- National Cancer Institute (NCI), National Institute of Health (NIH)
- GO2 Foundation for Lung Cancer
- Lung Cancer Research Foundation
- Lung Cancer Foundation of America
- American Vaping Association
- Vaping Prevention Resource
- CATCH My Breath
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