November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, a disease in which the leading risk factor is cigarette smoking.
Lung cancer is the second most common cancer and is difficult to identify. In fact, many people don’t experience any symptoms until the cancer has reached an advanced stage, said Dr. Ali Abedi, pulmonologist at Methodist Healthcare.
Nearly 90% of all lung cancer deaths are directly linked to smoking cigarettes. Quitting smoking has health benefits at any age, no matter how long or how much you have smoked.
Abedi said within a few days of quitting, your blood oxygen level improves, and carbon monoxide levels in your body decrease. Within two weeks to three months, your risk for heart attacks decreases, and lung function and circulation improves. Within one to 12 months, you can expect to see a decrease in coughing and shortness of breath.
The benefits only continue as time goes on, lowering your risk of stroke and lung cancer. It’s never too late to quit. Even people who have smoked for many years or have smoked heavily will benefit from quitting, Abedi said.
If you have a 20 pack-a-year or more smoking history, you smoke now or have quit within the past 15 years, and you are between 50 and 80 years old, you should be considered for a lung cancer screening.
Screening is significant for lung cancer detection and treatment. The goal of a lung cancer screening is to detect lung cancer at a very early stage when it’s more likely to be cured, Abedi said.
By the time lung cancer signs and symptoms develop, the cancer is usually too advanced for curative treatment. It’s for this reason that yearly lung cancer screenings are recommended for those who have a history of smoking or have quit within the past 15 years.
A lung cancer diagnosis can be terrifying, but Methodist Healthcare has a multidisciplinary team of experts to provide early detection, diagnosis, and timely treatment, Abedi said.
For more information, you can visit Methodist Healthcare’s website at SAHealth.com/CancerCare.