Jean-Philippe Bocage, M.D., chair of
the Lung Cancer Institute at Somerset Medical Center's Steeplechase Cancer
Every day the average person takes 28,800 breaths. Every year over 150,000 people will die from lung cancer, which averages out to 11,506,849 breaths a day that will not be taken. It is for all of those lost breaths that we dedicate the month of November to raising lung cancer awareness.
Lung cancer is the least survivable form of cancer, because beyond Stage I, it is generally surgically incurable. In later stages, once symptoms appear, the disease becomes much more difficult to treat. The average 5-year survival rate for a person who receives a late diagnosis is just 15.9%. However, patients can still benefit from medical treatment options.
While these statistics may seem dismal, the truth is, more can be done in the way of awareness and prevention to increase patient survivability. When identified early enough, lung cancer has been shown to be up to 90% curable. Patients have the option of minimally invasive surgical techniques, such as video-assisted thoracic surgery.
There are several ways to help decrease your chances of developing lung cancer, as well as to increase your chances of survival if you are diagnosed. This November, let’s take the time to educate ourselves and our loved ones on the steps we can all take to ensure we live to breathe another day.
- Stop smoking. Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. No matter how long a person has smoked, quitting greatly reduces his or her risk of developing lung cancer. Take advantage of quitting support programs offered through local hospitals and community organizations.
- Avoid harmful substances. The second leading cause of lung cancer is prolonged exposure to radon. Radon is an invisible gas that can be found in any home. Testing your home is inexpensive and should be done every few years to ensure you aren’t at risk.
- Protect yourself. When avoiding harmful substances simply isn’t an option, take measures to protect yourself. When working with hazardous chemicals, or when working in a construction site, be sure to wear a respiration mask. Avoid areas where people are smoking to prevent second-hand smoke damage.
- Eat well and stay active. Along with staying smoke-free, regular exercise and a balanced diet have been proven to reduce the risk of cancer, as well as numerous other diseases.
- Get screened regularly. Regular screening is the key to detecting cancer in its earliest and most treatable stages, which gives the patient the highest rate of survival. At-risk patients with long histories of heavy smoking should undergo annual low-dose CT scans. Such screening has been shown to reduce lung cancer mortality by at least 20%.
Lung Cancer Awareness Month is the perfect opportunity for you to familiarize yourself with the programs offered at your local medical center aimed at the prevention and early detection of lung cancer. Also, it’s a great time to speak with your physician about any lifestyle changes you can make and/or early detection programs available in your area. Don’t wait until it’s too late to save yourself or a loved one; be proactive to make sure you all lead long and healthy lives.