For November, 30 facts (one a day) about lung cancer

November 1, 2014 | by Nicole White

Lung cancer is a men’s health issue. It’s a women’s health issue. The truth is, anyone can get lung cancer.

lung cancer November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death. Today 400,000 survivors live in the U.S. More research and screening is needed to keep that number on the rise.

Arriving on the calendar after month-long (and higher profile) awareness campaigns for prostate and breast cancers, Lung Cancer Awareness Month calls for more research, more breakthroughs, and more understanding of a disease that kills more Americans than prostate cancer and breast cancer combined.

Through breakthroughs in screening and diagnosis, targeted medications and more advanced surgeries, more people are surviving the disease than ever before. Screening for lung cancer with low-dose CT scans can prevent 20 percent of lung cancer deaths by identifying them early.

Among the discoveries in this growing body of research is that – as with all cancers – no one is immune from lung cancer risk. Lung cancer is often considered to be a disease that affects only the elderly, or a disease that affects only smokers. Smoking is indeed the top risk factor – so quitting smoking is a huge step toward reducing risk – but it's not the only factor.

More cases of the disease are found in nonsmokers every year. About 15 percent of all cases are in never-smokers. About 60 percent of cases are patients who quit many years ago or who never smoked at all.

Although lung cancer is by far the top cause of cancer death for both men and women, many don’t seem to realize this fact. This spring, the American Lung Association released the results of its first Women’s Lung Health Barometer, a survey of more than 1,000 women. Only 1 percent of women named lung cancer as a top-of-mind cancer. Further, 78 percent did not know the disease has killed more women than breast cancer since 1987.

Together, we can raise awareness of, and reduce deaths attributed to, lung cancer. To that end, we offer 30 facts (one for each day of November) about lung cancer.

More you should know:

1. Lung cancer is by far the leading cause of cancer death among men and women. More people die of the disease each year than of colon, breast and prostate cancers combined, according to the American Cancer Society.

2. Lung cancer is the second most-common cancer in men and women – not counting skin cancer. Prostate is more common in men, and breast cancer is more common in women.

3. Lung cancer accounts for 27 percent of all cancer deaths, and 13 percent of all new cancers.

4. More than 400,000 people alive today have been diagnosed with lung cancer at some point.

5. Black men are about 20 percent more likely to develop lung cancer than white men. The rate is about 10 percent lower in black women than in white women.

6. The lung cancer rate has been dropping among men over the past two decades, but has only recently begun to drop in women.

7. The American Cancer Society estimates 224,210 new cases of lung cancer and 159,260 deaths in 2014. That’s about 436 deaths a day.

8. Lifetime lung cancer risk for men is one in 13; one in 16 for women. These numbers include smokers and nonsmokers.

9. Smoking is the leading risk factor for lung cancer – but not the only one. Radon, asbestos, cancer-causing agents, air pollution, radiation therapy to the lung and family history of lung cancer are also factors.

10. A diagnosis of respiratory disease such as COPD, emphysema, chronic bronchitis or pneumonia can increase your risk for developing lung cancer.

11. Screening is safe, effective and available for those who meet guidelines. Low-dose CT scans are the only proven method – chest X-rays are not effective.

12. Lung cancer is very treatable, even curable, if caught early. Screening can save lives.

13. Consider screening if you are 55 to 80, smoked a pack a day for 30 years (or equivalent), currently smoke or quit within 15 years.

14. About 60 percent of newly diagnosed lung cancer patients either quit smoking many years ago or never smoked, according to the Lung Cancer Alliance.

15. About 15 percent of lung cancer patients in the U.S. never smoked.

16. Lung cancer accounts for nearly 23,000 deaths annually in nonsmokers in the U.S.  If categorized as a separate disease, it would be the sixth-leading cause of cancer death, following lung cancer in smokers, colon cancer, breast cancer, pancreatic cancer and prostate cancer, according to an analysis of American Cancer Society data.

17. According to the Lung Cancer Project, three out of four people have a negative bias toward people with lung cancer.

18. About 68 percent of advanced cancer patients who never receive cancer care have lung cancer, according to the Lung Cancer Project.

19. The Lung Cancer Project found 67 percent of people polled associate lung cancer with shame, 74 percent associate it with stigma and 75 percent with hopelessness.

20. Patients diagnosed early are twice as likely to live five or more years compared to those diagnosed with late-stage cancers.

21. Advances in science in medicine have improved lung cancer survival with targeted therapies and screening.

22. Study of targeted therapies – which target specific receptors in lung cancer – is one of the most active areas of research in lung cancer.

23. One reason lung cancer is difficult to treat is because it is often diagnosed after it has already spread. The National Lung Screening Trial found low dose CT scans for those at high risk for lung cancer reduce the number of lung cancer deaths by 20 percent.

24.  Lung cancer rates dropped about 12 percent in the last three decades, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

25. Adenocarcinomas, about 40 percent of all lung cancers, are on the rise. They are slower-growing and more likely to be found before spreading beyond the lungs.

26. It's never too late to quit smoking. Quit by 30, reduce the risk of smoking-related disease by 90 percent. Quit by 50, reduce risk of smoking-related diseases by 50 percent. Quit by 60, live longer than smokers in your age group, according to NCI data.

27. Physical activity may reduce risk of lung cancer by 20 percent or more. Exercise improves lung function and reduces the danger of other diseases, including secondhand smoke.

28. According to the World Health Organization, air pollution causes cancer. Of the 3.2 million deaths air pollution causes worldwide, 223,000 are from lung cancer.

29. Two out of three patients diagnosed of lung cancer are 65 or older.

30. Many people with lung cancer have no symptoms or vague symptoms until the disease has progressed. Only 15 percent of lung cancers are discovered when the possibility of cure is the greatest. We can change this through screening and supporting lung cancer research.

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Learn more about lung cancer treatment and research at City of Hope.

Learn more about becoming a patient or getting a second opinion by visiting our website or by calling 800-826-HOPE (4673). City of Hope staff will explain what's required for a consult at City of Hope and help you determine, before you come in, whether or not your insurance will pay for the appointment.

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