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November is National Lung Cancer Month

Editorial by Mary W. Poole

 

Lung cancer is the number one cancer killer in America. With over 200,000 deaths per year, lung cancer kills more people than breast, colon and prostate cancer combined. It is very difficult to diagnose lung cancer from your symptoms in the early stages, that is why over 90% of people who develop lung cancer die from this disease.

Sometimes we take our lungs for granted. They keep us alive and well and for the most part, we do not think about them. That is why it is important to prioritize your lung health. Your body had a natural defense system designed to protect the lungs and keep dirt and germs at bay. But there are some important things you can do to reduce your risk of lung disease. Here are some ways to keep your lungs healthy.

Don’t Smoke – cigarette smoking is the major cause of lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Cigarette smoke can narrow the air passages and make breathing more difficult. It causes chronic inflammation, or swelling in the lung, which can lead to chronic bronchitis. Over time cigarette smoke destroys lung tissue, and may trigger changes that grow into cancer. If you smoke, it is never too late to benefit from quitting.

Avoid Exposure to Pollutants – secondhand smoke, outdoor air pollution, chemicals in the home and workplace can cause or worsen lung disease. Make your home and car smoke free. Avoid exercising outdoors on bad air days. Talk to your healthcare provider if you are worried that something in your home, school or work may be making you sick.

Get Regular Healthcare – regular check-ups help prevent diseases, even when you are feeling well. This is especially true for lung disease which sometimes goes undetected until it is serious. During a check-up, your healthcare provider will listen to your breathing and listen to your concerns.

Exercise – aerobic exercise helps improve your lung capacity. Specific breathing exercises can also help improve your lung function. Exercise and breathing techniques are also great for improving your mood and helping you relax.

Are you wondering if lung cancer screening is right for you? A test called low-dose spiral computed tomography (CT) can be done before symptoms even occur. This test can reduce lung cancer deaths through early detection. Results from the National Lung Screening Trial (NLST) showed that older heavy smokers who were screened with low-dose CT scans had a 20% lower rate of death. This test however is not recommended for everyone and has risks as well as benefits. The American Lung Association recommends low-dose CT screening for people who meet the NLST criteria. ARE YOU AT RISK?

Common lung cancer symptoms

While most lung cancers do not cause symptoms until they have spread, see your physician right away if you are bothered by any of these conditions:

blood in your spit

weight loss or loss of appetite

chest pain

hoarseness

recurring chest infections

persistent cough

shortness of breath or wheezing

 

If you are at risk for lung cancer, call the Scheduling Department at Baptist Hospital, Orange Campus, (409) 883-1196 to schedule today – NO PHYSICIAN ORDER REQUIRED. Screening test is $100.00 and included the radiologist fee.

 

Mary W. Poole is Director Public Relations at Baptist Hospitals of Southeast Texas