What Everyone Should Know About Lung Cancer

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The occasional cough from a cold or a bout of bronchitis is not unusual, but what about a nagging cough that never quite disappears despite treatment with medicines or cough syrups? Or, even more concerning, a cough that gradually worsens over time? Unfortunately it’s these types of signs that so many people typically miss or disregard when it comes to their health and wellness. And in some cases the hoarseness, headaches, and persistent cough are symptoms of lung cancer.

Lung Cancer Facts You May Not Know

You may not realize this, but more people die from lung cancer every year in the United States than breast, ovarian, colon, and prostate cancer combined. Even more concerning, in its earlier stages (when it’s typically the most treatable), it usually won’t present any glaring symptoms. When the disease reaches a more advanced stage and the warning signs finally do show up, many people dismiss or ignore them as something too minor to worry about. Sadly, that allows even more time for the cancer to grow and spread.

Smoking tobacco is well known as the most common risk factor, as it is directly linked to about 80% of all lung cancer fatalities. But cigars and breathing in secondhand smoke increase your risk almost as much as smoking itself. It stands to reason that one of best ways to significantly reduce your lung cancer risk is, obviously, to quit smoking. Studies show that even if you’ve smoked for years, as soon as you stop your chances of not getting lung cancer begin to rise.

Radon is a colorless, tasteless, and odorless radioactive gas that occurs naturally throughout the U.S. It’s also the second leading source for lung cancer cases, particularly in people who don’t smoke. While breathing in radon gas at its normal, outdoors levels is harmless (and something we do all the time, actually), it becomes dangerous when it builds up inside structures like homes, or cellars and basements.

Air pollution, asbestos, diesel exhaust, and family history are all considered contributing factors when it comes to lung cancer, so where you live and what you do for a living can also play a role in raising or lowering your risk. As always, if you are looking for help to quit smoking, your health care provider can get you started with a variety of alternatives to tobacco and nicotine and cessation methods.