By Brittny Bol, MPH, CHES | November 18, 2022
Project Coordinator - TECC, ETR
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women in the United States. Each year, about 218,500 people in the United States are told they have lung cancer, and about 142,000 people die from this disease. Unfortunately, early signs of lung cancer are not always detectable, and most people with lung cancer don’t have symptoms until the cancer is advanced. Lung Cancer Awareness Month is observed in November and is a perfect time to raise awareness, learn what signs to look for, and make changes to help lower your risk.1
Symptoms for lung cancer can vary by person. Some people have symptoms related to the lungs and others, whose lung cancer may have spread to other parts of the body, may have symptoms specific to that body part. Lung cancer symptoms may include:2,3
Research has found several risk factors that may increase your chances of getting lung cancer. The top three factors are:4
Smoking. Cigarette smoking is the number one risk factor for lung cancer, responsible for 80% - 90% of all lung cancer deaths. Using other tobacco products such as cigars or pipes also increases the risk for lung cancer. People who smoke are 15-30 times more likely to get, and die from, lung cancer than non-smokers. Secondhand smoke inhaled by non-smokers also raises the risk of developing lung cancer.
Radon. After smoking, radon exposure is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. Radon is a colorless, odorless naturally occurring gas that forms in rocks, soil, and water. When radon gets into homes or buildings through cracks or holes, it can get trapped and build up in the air inside. People who live or work in these homes and buildings over long periods of time have a significantly increased chance of developing lung cancer.
Personal or Family History. If you are a lung cancer survivor, there is a risk that you may develop another lung cancer, especially if you smoke. A family history of lung cancer may mean you are at a higher risk of getting the disease. If others in your family have or ever had lung cancer, it's important to mention this to your doctor.
You can help lower your risk of lung cancer in the following ways:5
Lung cancer screening can help people detect cancer before there are any symptoms. Early detection is important because lung cancer is easier to treat in its early stages, before it has spread. Visit the Saved By The Scan website to:7
Brittny Bol, MPH, CHES, (she/her/ella) is the Project Coordinator II for the Tobacco Education Clearinghouse of California (TECC) project at ETR. TECC is a statewide technical assistance provider that supports the development and distribution of effective educational materials for California Department of Public Health, California Tobacco Control Program (CDPH/CTCP)-funded projects at no cost. In her role she supports the educational material development process and provides trainings for CDPH/CTCP-funded projects. Brittny has worked in tobacco prevention and education for over four years and has a passion for helping communities achieve health equity. She can be reached at Brittny.Bol@etr.org.