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What You Should Know About Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is one of the more common types of cancer diagnosed and treated at Longmont United Hospital and the Hope Cancer Care Center. Nationally, it is the leading cause of cancer death. About 60 percent of the deaths are men, but the percentage of women is growing as more women smoke. Since 1987, more women have died of lung cancer than breast cancer.

The best news is that most cases of lung cancer are preventable. About 90 percent of lung cancer cases are caused by smoking, according to the American Cancer Society. If you smoke, stopping today could prevent damage to your lungs along with routine checkups and consultations with your physician. Visit Find a Physician, to locate a physician affiliated with Longmont United Hospital in your area.

Interested in quitting smoking? Contact Longmont United Hospital Program Registration at 303.485.4184 to sign up for a Smoking Cessation Class.

What Do the Lungs Do?

You have two lungs, one on each side of your chest, which take up most of the room inside your chest. A part of the respiratory system, your lungs take in oxygen when you inhale. This oxygen is sent into the blood and transported to all the cells in your body. When you exhale, the lungs help your body get rid of carbon dioxide, a waste product of cells.

When you breathe, air enters through your nose or mouth, goes down your windpipe or trachea, and enters your lungs through a main tube called the bronchi, which branches off to each lung. The air passages in the lung become smaller and smaller, as the bronchi branch off into bronchioles and finally into tiny air sacs called alveoli.

Nonsmall cell lung cancers usually begin in the bronchi (squamous cell cancer), or along the outer edges of the lung (adenocarcinoma and large cell cancers). Small cell lung cancers usually begin centrally, more in the middle of the chest.

Early Detection of Lung Cancer

You should be aware of the warning signs and risk factors for lung cancer. Not smoking or quitting smoking continues to be the best ways to avoid lung cancer.

Warning Signs

Lung cancer is not usually diagnosed in the early stages. Discuss any changes you notice with your doctor. Some of these symptoms can be caused by a number of conditions, not necessarily cancer, that need to be checked by your physician. If you need a physician, click on Find a Physician.

Changes to watch for include:

  • Persistent cough
  • Sputum streaked with blood
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Recurring lung infections, such as pneumonia or bronchitis
  • Fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss
Risk Factors

Although you cannot change some risk factors, you can take major steps to reduce your risk of lung cancer. Risk factors include:

  • Smoking (cigarettes, cigars, pipes, marijuana)
  • Exposure to industrial and organic chemicals
  • Radon is a colorless, odorless gas that is given off by rocks in the ground. Your home can be a source of radon, especially if you live in an area that is known for radon. Testing is available. A serious source of exposure to radon is through industry and working in mineral mines.
  • Radiation exposure
  • Asbestos exposure
  • Tuberculosis
  • Secondhand smoke
  • Air pollution
  • Family history
Smoking and Cancer

Cigarette smoking is by far the greatest cause of lung cancer in the U.S. Smoking has also been linked to causing cancer of the:

  • Mouth, throat and larynx
  • Bladder
  • Kidney
  • Cervix
  • Pancreas
Quitting Smoking

Does quitting smoking help reduce your risk against lung cancer? Yes. But can you do it alone? If not, call Longmont United Hospital’s Program Registrations at 303.485.4184 for information on ongoing group smoking cessation clinics. Visit these links for Smoking Cessation Information: American Lung Association Quitting Smoking Program and National Cancer Institute Smoking Cessation.