Lung Cancer: Early Diagnosis Key to Survival – The Interior Journal


Lung cancer is not only the leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States, but it is also the leading cause of cancer death in Kentucky. Smoking is responsible for 90% of these deaths, although you don’t have to be a smoker to be diagnosed with lung cancer. Second-hand smoke still kills, while other people develop lung cancer through exposure to chemicals like radon and asbestos, or through family history.

In fact, each year in the United States, 10-20% of lung cancers diagnosed are from people who have never smoked. Or, if they did, they may have only smoked a few hundred cigarettes in their lifetime. Whether you’re a current smoker or quit years ago, symptoms of lung cancer should trigger a visit to your primary care physician.

Symptoms include shortness of breath, chest pain, and/or an unexplained cough, including the possibility of coughing up blood. Unfortunately, symptoms of lung cancer usually don’t develop until the cancer is at an advanced stage. In fact, two-thirds of lung cancer cases aren’t detected until it may be too late. That’s why smokers between the ages of 55 and 77 should be screened regularly for lung cancer, regardless of their symptoms.

The good news is that if detected at an early stage, the cure rate for lung cancer is between 80-90%.

The vast majority of lung cancer cases are detected on a chest X-ray or CT scan. In fact, CT scans are an important tool in the fight against lung cancer because they can detect cancer early enough for treatment to be successful. A CT scan is a simple test that requires a patient to lie on a stretcher for a few moments while a CT scan glides over it. Patients generally don’t feel claustrophobic, as some might during an MRI, and the scan is considered safe and easy compared to the risk of developing lung cancer.

Surgery is the main treatment option for lung cancer. The good news is that by getting a CT scan and ensuring lung cancer is caught early, the chances of a cure with surgery are higher than those waiting to see a doctor. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy are also used to fight lung cancer, as well as immunotherapy which tricks the immune system into fighting tumors.

The ultimate key to a cure is early diagnosis, which makes CT scans for lung cancer screening very important.

Diagnosing lung cancer early ensures a better chance of a cure for cancer that usually shows no signs until it’s too late. If you are a current smoker, or even if you haven’t smoked in a decade, talk to your primary care provider about the benefits of a CT scan. When you consider the alternative of waiting until it’s too late, you’ll be glad you had the discussion, because it could save your life.


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