SSM Health Medical Minute: Lung Cancer is still #1 killer for men and women in US

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November is Lung Cancer awareness month. Dr. Dani Tazbaz, Pulmonologist with SSM Health Medical Group says that lung cancer is still, "the #1 cancer killer here in the United States for both men and women."

Often, the symptoms of lung cancer don’t present themselves until later stages.   But a newly available CT scan can diagnose the disease earlier when it's curable.  Early screenings can offer the possibility of a cure.  "If we detect non small-cell lung cancer in stage 1, it can be curable and the treatment is surgery, or for patients who cannot tolerate surgery, the treatment is radiation."

Individuals with a history of tobacco use are encouraged to get the screening.

Warning signs of lung cancer can include:

  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • Persistent cough
  • Trouble breathing and shortness of breath
  • Discomfort in the chest and surrounding areas
  • Coughing up mucus or phlegm
  • Coughing up blood (hemoptysis)

Cells in the lungs can become abnormal over time, and may not die off as part of the body’s natural process of renewal. As these abnormal cells reproduce they gradually form a tumor in the lung. Due to the size of the lungs, these tumors often go undetected for years.

Dr. Tazbaz's treats the most common types of lung cancer, including small-cell lung cancers and non-small-cell lung cancers (NSCLC).

Accounting for 90% of lung cancer diagnoses, smoking is the top risk factor.

However, other risk factors include:

  • Exposure to asbestos and other hazardous materials and chemicals
  • Exposure to radon gas
  • Exposure to secondhand smoke
  • Family history of lung cancer

To learn more about screenings and lung cancer symptoms, click here.

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