Most of us know the pink ribbon is an international symbol of breast cancer awareness. Pink ribbons, and the color pink in general, identify the wearer or promoter with the breast cancer brand and express moral support for women and men with breast cancer. But how about the white ribbon? The white ribbon brings awareness to those fighting lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer death in men and women worldwide.

 

Lung cancer starts with cells in the airway that have suffered permanent damage. This damage results in an abnormal uncontrolled growth of cells and can spread to other parts of the body. There are many causes linked to lung cancer. The most important and well understood risk factor is cigarette smoking.

 

The best way to lower your chances of getting lung cancer is to quit smoking. This is difficult, but it can be done. To stop smoking, you need to overcome both the nicotine cravings, as well as a deeply ingrained habit. Many people cite “stress” as a reason they do not choose to try and quit. Stress is a part of everyday life for most people, and waiting for stress to “go away” before doing something beneficial for your health is a recipe for failure. We must learn different ways to cope with stress, and talking with your doctor about your sources of stress is a good start. There are many resources out there that can help you quit, and some will provide you FDA approved smoking cessation aids for free, or at greatly reduced prices. Here are just a few:

 

Aside from quitting smoking, you can reduce your chances of dying from lung cancer by getting a low-dose computerized tomography (CT) lung screening which is a CT scan with a low dose of radiation. A low-dose CT lung screening can save lives of individuals at high-risk of developing lung cancer. It uses special x-ray technology to scan the body and make a series of detailed images of the lungs to find lung nodules, some of which may be cancerous.

 

The screening is recommended for those who meet the following eligibility requirements:

  • Age 55 to 74 years old
  • Currently a smoker or have quit within the past 15 years
  • Smoked at least a pack of cigarettes a day for 30+ years or two packs a day for 15 years
  • No history of lung cancer themselves

 

Those who are eligible for a lung screening and decide to get screened, the chances of finding cancer in its earliest stages is higher. Finding cancer early generally means that there are more treatment options available.

 

It is recommended that current and former smokers at high-risk for lung cancer discuss the appropriateness of the CT lung screening with their primary care provider.

 

Submitted by: Angie Bronander, Radiologist, Burnett Medical Center

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