Just Breathe

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, so I am joining the campaign to increase awareness by writing this blog post. Hopefully you will learn a few things! I’d like to give a shout out to several of Noreta’s patients who are currently courageously battling lung cancer.

Did you know….

  • that lung cancer is the 3rd most common cancer diagnosed each year, but the #1 cause of cancer-related deaths?
  • that radon gas is the 2nd leading cause of lung cancer (behind smoking)?
  • if you live/lived in a household with indoor smokers, then you are at a higher risk of developing lung cancer?
  • that the risk for lung cancer is cut by 40% just 5 years after someone quits smoking? The risk for lung cancer continues to decrease after that, but at a slower rate.
  • that the symptoms of lung cancer are often subtle? Symptoms may include:
    • Coughing up blood (it doesn’t have to happen every time someone coughs)
    • Losing weight without trying to
    • Chest pain – this can be on one side of the chest, or even in one particular area of the chest that won’t go away
    • Shortness of breath – Are you huffing and puffing going up the stairs?
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  • that a lung cancer screening test is available?
    • You qualify for a Low-Dose CT Lung Cancer screening test if you:
      • Are between 50-80 years old AND
      • Smoked on average, 1 pack a day for 20 years (or more) AND
      • Still smoke, or quit smoking less than 15 years ago
    • The criteria for lung cancer screening recently broadened to include more people!
    • FYI, this CT scan is a quick test that involves a doughnut looking machine (see the pic) and does NOT involve needles or getting put into a long tube 😊
  • that lung cancer has a 60% cure rate if it’s caught early?
    • I’ve been seeing a lot of patients who have avoided seeing a doctor out of fear lately. Just remember that the sooner someone is diagnosed, the more birthdays they are likely to celebrate!

What are some ways to prevent lung cancer?

  • Quit smoking! Easier said than done, there are lots of options to get help with quitting including:
    • 1-800-QUIT-NOW hotline
    • Nicotine patches, gum, lozenges, nasal sprays (some of these can be used in combination)
    • Prescription meds (Chantix and Zyban)
    • I will mention e-cigarettes, but would only recommend people who currently use e-cigs to consider quitting smoking using this method
  • Ask your indoor smokers to smoke outside
  • Test your home for radon. Radon tends to be more prevalent up north, so you might want to encourage family members who live north of SC (especially those who smoke) to have their homes tested for radon .You can get a free radon test kit from SC DHEC by clicking on this link. Click on this link to see the EPA’s map of the radon hot spots in the country.
  • If you are recommended to wear a face mask at work (prior to COVID) due to possible exposure to cancer causing substances, do it!

If you’d like to learn more about lung cancer, CLICK HERE.

Have a good week! Feel free to contact me with any questions.
Melissa Boylan, MD, FAAFP
Family Physician and Owner of Noreta Family Medicine