Lung Cancer Awareness Month: It's Not Just a Smoker's Disease This letter is dedicated to former Daily Herald reporter Tony Gordon and the thousands of future victims of lung cancer. November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. It's time to get educated about the No. 1 cancer killer in the United States.
Lung cancer kills 157,000 people annually -- more than breast, colon, and prostate cancers combined. And yet, research funding for lung cancer has drastically trailed compared to funding for others. As a result, only 16 percent of lung cancer patients survive five years after diagnosis and even less survive beyond that.
It's imperative that people recognize lung cancer as a risk to anyone, not just smokers. Because lung cancer is usually detected in late stages, it's almost always a death sentence, but it doesn't have to be if you are aware of lung cancer, its symptoms, and if you forget the notion you are excluded for risk because you never smoked.
I can tell you firsthand, having lost several close family members to lung cancer that it doesn't matter if you never smoked or quit so long ago you think you have long beat the odds. People with an increased risk of lung cancer include anyone with exposure to radon, asbestos, air pollution, first- and second-hand smoke, industrial chemicals, use of beta-carotene supplements, old age, and anyone with a family history of lung cancer.
Occupations most at risk because of exposure to toxins include hair dressers and barbers, miners, mechanics, iron and steel workers, production of art glass, glass containers, and pressed ware; rubber industry, painters, foundry workers, and military personnel.
Recognize the most common symptoms including a persistent cough, blood in sputum, shortness of breath, wheezing, pain in the chest or back between the shoulder blades, fatigue, pneumonia, hoarseness, difficulty or pain in swallowing.