Surviving lung cancer: Why early detection is important
Lung cancer kills more people per year than any other form of cancer. Of those who contract lung cancer, The American Lung Association notes that only 16 percent of cases get diagnosed in the early stages when it is easier to stop.
“Early detection is key to increasing survival rates for patients with lung cancer,” says Michael Shehata MD, of the TriHealth Cancer Institute. “But without screening or the early appearance of symptoms, many patients are in advanced stages before they are diagnosed.”
Dr. Shehata points out that early detection can be challenging as common symptoms such as shortness of breath, unexplained weight loss and persistent cough usually don’t appear until the disease has progressed. That is why The American Cancer Society has developed screening guidelines for individuals at high risk for lunch cancer. The criteria include:
- Aged 55 to 74 years
- Have at least a 30 pack per year smoking history
- Are in fairly good health
- Either currently smoke or have quit within the last 15 years
According to Dr. Shehata, those who meet these criteria may want to consider lung cancer screening with an annual high-quality, low-dose computer tomography (LDCT).As with any disease, the best treatment is prevention. Here are four tips for reducing the risk of lung cancer.
Quitting smoking or, better yet, never starting, is the best way to prevent getting lung cancer. It's also helpful to avoid being around other people when they are smoking. If you are or have ever been a smoker, once you stop, the damaged tissue slowly starts to repair itself so no matter how long you’ve smoked, you can stop today and still help prevent cancer.
Among nonsmokers, radon is the leading cause of lung cancer, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas with no smell, taste or color that can be found in your home. It can seep through cracked floors, ceilings and walls. You can test for it with an EPA-approved at-home radon detection kit available at most hardware stores.
Eat fruits and vegetables
Many fruits and vegetables are high in fiber, vitamins and minerals that help lower your risk of lung cancer. In fact, scientists at the American Association for Cancer Research found that even smokers who eat a diet full of fruits and vegetables could lower their risk of lung cancer by 23 percent.
Exercise is not only good for overall health and well-being. People who exercise have a significant decrease in risk for lung cancer, even those who have previously smoked, according to the American Cancer Society. The exercise doesn’t need to be vigorous. A 30-minute walk, five days a week, is sufficient. Exercise lowers estrogen and insulin-helping to lower the risk of lung cancer.
For those who are concerned about or already dealing with lung cancer, the medical professionals at The TriHealth Cancer Institute, a leading specialist in lung cancer prevention and treatment, have the experience and expertise to help.