November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, an important time for us at Merit Medical. As a patient-centric healthcare company, it is our goal to not only provide the tools physicians need to treat and improve outcomes for lung cancer patients but also to share knowledge and increase awareness surrounding the disease.
WHAT IS LUNG CANCER?
Lung cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the lungs. It is the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide.1 Among women in the US, it has surpassed breast cancer, becoming the leading cause of cancer deaths nationally.2
There are different kinds of lung cancer, but the two main types are non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer (SCLC).3
Learn more about NSCLC, SCLC, and other types of lung tumors here.
WHAT CAUSES LUNG CANCER?
It is unknown what causes every case of lung cancer, but there are known risk factors.
Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer, resulting in about 80% of lung cancer deaths. Although smoking is the strongest risk factor, it can also interact with other factors or not be the cause at all.
CAUSES IN NON-SMOKERS1,4
Many people who develop lung cancer are smokers or former smokers, whereas others have never smoked at all. Lung cancer in non-smokers can be caused by exposure to different substances, such as radon, secondhand smoke, air pollution, asbestos, diesel exhaust, and other chemicals. People with a family history of lung cancer are also at an increased risk.
A small percentage of people develop lung cancer who have no known risk factors. This may happen with no outside cause or may be due to factors we have not found yet.
Learn more about lung cancer risk factors as well as gene changes that may lead to the disease.
SYMPTOMS OF LUNG CANCER
In the early stages, lung cancer typically does not cause any signs and symptoms. In the advanced stages, common signs and symptoms of lung cancer can include:
- A new, persistent cough
- New onset of wheezing
- Coughing up blood or rust-colored phlegm
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain, especially when breathing deeply, laughing, or coughing
- Hoarse voice
- Weight loss without trying
- Loss of appetite
- Fluid in the chest
- Persistent infections, such as bronchitis and pneumonia
- Cancer spreading to other parts of the body (This can cause other signs and symptoms, such as headache, nausea, pain, etc., depending on which organ is affected.)
LUNG CANCER PREVENTION
Although lung cancer cannot always be avoided, steps can be taken to reduce your risk1.
Quit Smoking (or Don’t Start)
If you have never smoked, don’t start. If you want to quit, there are many replacement products, support programs, and medications available to help. Talk to your doctor.
Stay Away from Secondhand Smoke
Avoid places where people smoke. If you live with a smoker, encourage him or her to quit and ask that smoking be done outside.
Test Your Home for Radon
If you learn that you have high radon levels in your home, it can be corrected. Contact your local department of public health for more information.
Avoid Cancer-Causing Chemicals
Always follow precautions in the workplace to avoid toxic chemical exposure. If you work regularly in a hazardous environment, talk with your doctor to see what else you can do to protect yourself.
Live a Healthy Lifestyle
Choose a diet full of fruits and vegetables. Always choose nutritious foods versus taking large doses of vitamins, as some vitamins have been found to increase the risk of lung cancer.6 Include physical activity in your routine. Find a type of exercise you enjoy and try to be active most days of the week.
WHEN TO SEE A DOCTOR
If you notice any signs or symptoms that worry you, make an appointment with your doctor. If you need help quitting, your doctor can create a care plan that may include medication, counseling, support groups, online resources, and replacement products.
Only 16% of lung cancer cases are diagnosed at an early stage, and more than half of people with lung cancer die within one year of diagnosis.2 If you are at an increased risk of lung cancer, talk to your doctor about lung cancer screening options. Early detection can make a difference. The five-year survival rate for lung cancer is 56% for cases detected when the disease is still localized within the lungs.2 However, these rates decrease dramatically to only 5% when tumors have spread to other organs.2
At Merit, our goal is to help people worldwide live their best lives. Learn about the trusted interventional and palliative treatment alternatives we offer.
AEROmini® Tracheobronchial Stent
Elation® Pulmonary Balloon Dilator
- Mayo Clinic. “Lung Cancer Symptoms and Causes.” Accessed October 23, 2020. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/lung-cancer/symptoms-causes/syc-20374620
- American Lung Cancer Association. “Lung Cancer Fact Sheet.” Accessed October 27, 2020. https://www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/lung-cancer/resource-library/lung-cancer-fact-sheet
- American Cancer Society. “What Is Lung Cancer?” Accessed October 23, 2020. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/lung-cancer/about/what-is.html
- American Cancer Society. “What Causes Lung Cancer?” Accessed October 23, 2020. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/lung-cancer/causes-risks-prevention/what-causes.html
- American Cancer Society. “Signs and Symptoms of Lung Cancer.” Accessed October 23, 2020. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/lung-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/signs-symptoms.html
- Mayo Clinic. “Drugs and Supplements Beta Carotene (Oral Route). Accessed October 23, 2020. https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/beta-carotene-oral-route/precautions/drg-20066795