Catch it early: Should you get a lung cancer screening?

Accounting for 25 percent of all cancer deaths, November is designated Lung Cancer Awareness Month

While it is the number one cancer killer in the United States, only 16 percent of people diagnosed with lung cancer are diagnosed at an early stage "“ a stage in which the cancer is most responsive to treatment, giving the patient their best chance.

These facts make it all the more critical for those who live with lung cancer risk factors and exhibit early-stage symptoms to talk to their doctor about a screen. To bring attention to the importance of early detection, the American Lung Association has designated November as Lung Cancer Awareness Month.

Symptoms might appear as common or innocuous, but these symptoms should not be ignored or disregarded if they appear in people who also live with risk factors.

Symptoms and risk factors

Early symptoms
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Reduced energy

Additional symptoms

  • Chronic cough
  • Coughing up blood
  • Hoarseness
  • Wheezing
  • Frequent shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Bone pain

Risk factors

  • Smoking
  • Exposure to secondhand smoke
  • Family history of lung cancer
  • Exposure to radon gas, asbestos and other carcinogens

Early detection

Even before patients begin to exhibit symptoms, a low-dose CT lung cancer screening can detect lung cancer in its earliest, most treatable stages.

Lung cancer screenings have been shown to decrease lung cancer deaths by 20 percent because it allows for treatment to start sooner.

A low-dose CT lung cancer screening is a CT image of the lungs which uses significantly less radiation than standard CT imaging. 

Lung cancer facts

  • 250,000 Americans are diagnosed with lung cancer every year
  • Smoking contributes to 80 to 90 percent of lung cancer cases
  • Lung cancer is the most common form of cancer worldwide and the number 1 cancer killer
  • Non-smokers have a 20 to 30 percent chance of developing lung cancer if they are exposed to secondhand smoke
  • When compared to non-smokers, men who smoke are 23 times more likely to develop lung cancer while women who smoke are 13 times more likely