Lung cancer doesn’t just affect people who smoke. It’s the No. 1 cancer killer in the U.S. More people die from lung cancer than colon cancer, breast cancer, and prostate cancer combined. Doctors encourage those at the highest risk to be screened for lung cancer, although most people never do.
Below is information on lung cancer risk factors, symptoms, how you can get screened, and more.
Lung cancer risk factors
People at the highest risk of lung cancer are those who have heavy tobacco exposure. This includes smoking cigarettes, pipes, or cigars. The younger a person starts smoking, the more often they smoke, and the longer they smoke all increase lung cancer risk. Once a person stops smoking, the risk of lung cancer lowers as the years go by, according to the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center.
However, 20% of lung cancer is not cause by tobacco. That includes environmental and genetic factors. Other risk factors are:
- exposure to second-hand smoke
- radiation therapy treatment to the breast or chest
- exposure to asbestos, radon, chromium, nickel, arsenic, soot, or tar
- living where there is air pollution
Symptoms of lung cancer
Symptoms of lung cancer are generic. They include:
- new cough that won’t go away
- new wheezing
- coughing up blood
- shortness of breath
- losing weight
- loss of appetite
- tired feeling
Most patients diagnosed with lung cancer may not have symptoms. For patients who are at highest risk of developing lung cancer, which includes those with heavy tobacco exposure, there are lung cancer screenings called a low-dose CT scan, or low-dose CAT scan.
Lung cancer treatments
At the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, treatments include:
- Chemotherapy: This treatment is usually given by infusion at the Cancer Center.
- Targeted therapy: This new generation of oral medication targets the lung cancer cells.
- Radiation therapy: This is offered in the Radiation Oncology Clinic at the Cancer Center.
- Surgery: Experts evaluate this based on the stage of cancer and other characteristics of the patient.
- Clinical trials: The Cancer Center has a variety of clinical trials, including in precision medicine, personalized medicine, and immunotherapy to boost the immune system to fight lung cancer.
UC Davis Health also hosts classes to help people quit tobacco.
Lung cancer screening
There are millions of people who are eligible for lung cancer screening. In California, only 1% of eligible people get screened. In comparison, 70% of eligible women get routine breast cancer screenings. If you think you could benefit from lung cancer screening, talk to your doctor.