Each year, more people die of lung cancer than breast, colon, and prostate cancer combined. According to the American Cancer Society, more than 150,000 people in the United States will die from lung cancer this year.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women in Kentucky. November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month in Kentucky, a time to bring attention to this deadly disease. This year, more than 3,600 Kentuckians will die of lung cancer.
Alfred Cohen, M.D., CEO and director for the University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center, and professor of surgery at UK College of Medicine, knows the seriousness of this disturbing health epidemic.
Lung cancer is preventable
“It is disheartening to realize that the Commonwealth of Kentucky is number one in the country in terms of lung cancer, in both the incidence and death. In fact, we have about 50 percent more people with lung cancer in this state compared with the national average,” Cohen says.
Although lung cancer is the most common form of cancer, it is also the most preventable. The major risk factor in the development of lung cancer is tobacco use, primarily by smoking cigarettes. The risk increases the longer a person has been smoking cigarettes.
“The burden of lung cancer in Kentucky is great,” says Timothy Mullett, M.D., associate professor of surgery, UK College of Medicine, and director of the Multidisciplinary Lung Cancer Program at the UK Markey Cancer Center.
“We must respond not just with patient care, but with a sense of responsibility to our state and to the country to reduce the rate of this disease, primarily by decreasing the incidence with smoking cessation and prevention,” Mullett says.
Causes & symptoms
Quitting smoking not only lowers the risk, but quitting before cancer develops helps lung tissue to slowly return to normal. However, Kentucky has had a smaller decline in lung cancer incidence rates than the national average.
Nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke also increase their risk.
Cigar and pipe smoking are almost as likely to cause lung cancer as cigarette smoking. Other risk factors include smoking marijuana and exposure to asbestos or radon.
Although most people do not experience symptoms, the American Cancer Society recommends seeking medical attention if any of these symptoms occur: persistent cough, chest pain (made worse by breathing deeply), hoarseness, weight loss and loss of appetite, bloody spit or phlegm, shortness of breath, recurring bronchitis and pneumonia, or an onset of wheezing.
Lung cancer also may cause bone pain, weakness or numbness of the arms or legs, dizziness, jaundice, or masses near the surface of the body.
A physician can discuss a variety of treatment options, depending on the type and stage of the cancer. Surgery to remove the tumor and some of the lung tissue around it, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy are used alone or in combination to treat lung cancer.
LUNG CANCER/QUIT SMOKING HELP
General Cancer Information Service
800-4-CANCER or 800-422–6237
American Cancer Society Web site
Multidisciplinary Lung Cancer Program
UK Markey Cancer Center
Quit Smoking Help
Kentucky Cancer Program
(859) 442-3525 or (502) 852-6318