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Key to Surviving #1 Cancer Killer: Early Detection of Lung Cancer

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November is National Lung Cancer Awareness Month, and we have our work cut out for us. Many Americans are woefully unaware that lung cancer is the leading cancer killer in the United States. The five-year survival rate for lung cancer is among the lowest of all types of cancers. Yet, when detected early, there are more potential treatments available and odds for survival are higher. Early detection is key to saving lives, and this November, the American Lung Association is urging all Americans to learn more, understand your risk and join the fight to defeat lung cancer.

Lung cancer kills more men and women than any other cancer in America. It kills more than 400 people every day, with a new diagnosis occurring every 2½ minutes.

One reason why lung cancer has a low survival rate is that there are few early symptoms of the disease. By the time symptoms appear, the disease is often advanced and may have spread to other parts of the body. At this stage, treatment is more difficult and often less successful. New detection methods and understanding of risk can catch lung cancer earlier, when more treatment options are available.

Importance of Lung Cancer Screening

Screening is looking for cancer before you have any symptoms. Studies have shown that low-dose spiral CT scan, or CAT scan, is the only lung cancer screening tool that reduces the risk of dying from lung cancer. Annual CT screening is recommended only for those considered at high risk for lung cancer. Who is at high risk? People who meet these criteria are considered high risk, and may be candidates for CT screening:
  • 55-80 years of age
  • Have a 30 pack-year history of smoking (this means 1 pack a day for 30 years, 2 packs a day for 15 years, etc.)
  • And, are a current smoker, or have quit within the last 15 years.

The American Lung Association has an interactive online tool - lungcancerscreeningsaveslives.org - to determine if lung cancer screening is recommended for you or a loved one.

Raising Awareness about Lung Cancer

Screening and ever-improving treatment options bring new hope for lung cancer patients, but overall awareness of lung cancer continues to be a challenge. Increased awareness among women in particular is urgent, as according to the third annual Women's Lung Health Barometer, only about two-thirds of women at high risk for lung cancer are concerned about getting the disease, and only half of those women have spoken to their doctor about their risk. Screening and early detection is key to saving lives, and this must begin with awareness.

To bridge the awareness gap and save lives, the Lung Association launched LUNG FORCE, a nationwide initiative to raise awareness, increase medical research and unite women against lung cancer. Lung Cancer Awareness Month is the ideal time for women across America to learn more about lung cancer.

More early detection methods and new treatment options are needed to save the lives of the nearly quarter of a million people that will be diagnosed with lung cancer this year. This Lung Cancer Awareness Month, you can help. If lung cancer has touched your life, help us raise awareness about the disease and the importance of early detection by sharing your story at LUNGFORCE.org.