Surviving Lung Cancer: Why Early Detection is Important

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 select health organizations* have developed screening guidelines for individuals at high risk for lunch cancer. The criteria include:

  • Aged 50 to 80 years
  • Current smoker or one who has quit within 15 years
  • Tobacco smoking history of at least 20-pack years**
  • No signs or symptoms of lung cancer

*The most recent version of the American Cancer Society (ACS) lung cancer screening guideline (from 2018) is being taken down while we review new scientific evidence to be included in the next update. While this important update is being completed, the ACS advises that health care providers, and people at increased risk for lung cancer, follow the recently updated recommendations for annual lung cancer screening from the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), or the American College of Chest Physicians.

**This is the number of packs of cigarettes per day multiplied by the number of years smoked. For example, someone who smoked 2 packs a day for 10 years [2 x 10 = 20] has 20 pack-years of smoking, as does a person who smoked 1 pack a day for 20 years [1 x 20 = 20].

As with any disease, the best treatment is prevention. Here are four tips for reducing the risk of lung cancer.

Quit smoking 

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.

Avoid radon 

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.


Tags Cancer