It’s easy to get lost in sea of pink ribbons in October, making it hard to refocus on yet another cancer awareness month. But November ushers in Lung Cancer Awareness month, and although it claims a place as a “lesser known” cancer in the research and publicity world, it has had a few recent breakthroughs of its own.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths for both men and women, and it kills twice as many women as breast cancer. The movement for breast cancer awareness, detection and prevention is working exceptionally well, as early detection has been increasing, and thus death rates have been decreasing. It would truly be a wonderful accomplishment if we could do the same for all cancers. However, raising awareness about lung cancer continues to be challenging—likely because of the stigma of its risk factors.
Smoking is the No. 1 cause of lung cancer; in fact the American Cancer Society estimates that smoking causes approximately 80 percent of lung cancer deaths. But, lighting up isn’t the only risk factor, as 20 percent of patients with lung cancer are never smokers.
Another often overlooked risk factor is secondhand smoke, which can increase your threat of lung cancer by up to 30 percent. Other risk factors for lung cancer include environmental risk factors such as exposure to asbestos, arsenic and radon, as well as exposure to large amounts of radiation, due to frequent CT scans or abdomen X-rays.
Pollution inhalation is now thought to be a risk factor, as women in China—a country known for its air pollution−are now diagnosed at higher rates than women in Europe. Those with a family history of lung cancer also have a higher possibility of developing the disease.
Research shows that 72 percent of the time lung cancer is discovered at an advanced stage. This makes treatment and removal of tumors much more difficult than if it is detected early. Thankfully, a life-saving early diagnosis screening for appropriate candidates is now available.
Dr. Lynne A. Skaryak, a board certified thoracic and general surgeonwith Chesapeake Surgical Specialists. Dr. Skaryak is a fellow of the American College of Surgeons and a member of the Society of Thoracic Surgeons. She has been involved in many multi-disciplinary thoracic oncology clinics and tumor boards for the most up-to-date care of patients.Her areas of expertise include malignancies of the lung, esophagus and chest wall. She is also experienced in in minimally invasive pulmonary and esophageal surgery, endoscopic laser therapy and stent insertion, percutaneous tracheostomy, stereotactic radiosurgery and chest wall resections.