COLUMBIA - November is lung cancer awareness month, which aims to elevate the knowledge of the deadliest type of cancer for both men and women. During 2012 there have been 226,160 new lung cancer cases and 160,340 deaths in the United States.
Each year more people die of lung cancer than of breast, colon, and prostate cancers combined, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
The National Cancer Institute website defines lung cancer as a type of cancer that forms in tissues of the lung, usually in the cells lining air passages. The two main types are small cell lung cancer and non-small cell cancer. These types are diagnosed based on how the cells look under a microscope.
About 80 percent of lung cancer deaths are thought to result from smoking. The risk for lung cancer in smokers is much higher than among non-smokers and that is not only in cigarette smokers. Cigar smoking and pipe smoking are almost as likely to cause lung cancer as cigarette smoking.
But nonsmokers can also get lung cancer due to exposure to secondhand smoke. According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 3,000 nonsmoking adults will die each year from lung cancer related to breathing secondhand smoke.
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S., and it is the leading cause among non-smokers. Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that results from the breakdown of uranium in soil and rocks. The amount of radon outdoors is very small, but indoors it is more concentrated and therefore more harmful.
In the early stages of lung cancer there may not be any symptoms, but symptoms may include:
-Cough that doesn't go away
-Coughing up blood
-Losing weight without trying
-Loss of appetite
-Shortness of breath
Other causes of lung cancer may include the following:
-Asbestos, a mineral fiber that has been used commonly in a variety of building construction materials for insulation and as a fire-retardant.
-Exposure to cancer-causing chemicals such as uranium, beryllium, vinyl chloride, nickel chromates, coal products, mustard gas, chloromethyl ethers, gasoline, and diesel exhaust
-Family history of lung cancer
-High levels of air pollution
-High levels of arsenic in drinking water
-Radiation therapy to the lungs