Do you think lung cancer affects only smokers? Do you think lung cancer mostly affects men? If you answered “yes” to these two questions, you need to continue reading!
Even if you are not a smoker or have never smoked, lung cancer is still a serious disease you need to know about. Unfortunately, lung cancer has not inspired much activism or advocacy because it is often viewed as a condition that smokers bring on themselves. However, no one is immune, and it is NOT just a smoker’s disease!
A few facts about lung cancer
- Kills 165,000 people every year—more than any other single cancer.
- It takes a more significant toll on women than breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and uterine cancer combined.
- Among nonsmokers, more women than men develop the disease.
- It is the second most common cancer in women and the number one cause of cancer death in women.
- Women, especially nonsmokers, tend to respond better to specific therapies. (Yes—there is some good news!)
Besides the statistics listed above, I wanted to dedicate a blog to discussing lung cancer in women because this type of cancer is often silent until it becomes deadly. But it doesn’t have to be that way! If you understand the risk factors and are aware of the symptoms, you may be able to find it early—before it has gone too far.
Although discussing topics such as lung cancer (or any other type of cancer, for that matter) can be a bit scary, it’s important to discuss why lung cancer has increasingly become a particular concern for women’s health. The known risk factors and the physical symptoms of lung cancer are vital to be aware of. Knowledge is power, and I want you to have that knowledge to help you potentially prevent cancer from developing in the first place.
W*A*I*Pointes® & Cancer
Let’s first start with the importance of nutrition and diet for women in midlife to help with this prevention, and look at the approach we use at true. Women’s Health to help you along the way. We use a plan called W*A*I*Pointes® to help our patients live their true. lives and determine how they want to age. W*A*I* stands for Who Am I, and it focuses on nine wellness categories, and one of those categories is Cancer.
We ask each patient to create a health goal, also called a Picture of Self (POS), and then we ask, “What is your POS concerning cancer? Do you want cancer?” Some patients are offended when I ask that question, but that is never my intention. Instead, it’s meant to help you realize you do have some control over how you age, and there are things you can do to lower your risk of developing lung cancer. Yes, there are risk factors, but there are ways to evaluate those risk factors and determine which ones are out of your control and which ones are in your control. At true., we look at your personal risk factors and help you break down what they mean for your future.
Prevention is possible!
- Stop smoking (or at least cut down on use).
- Have your home tested for radon.
- Make sure you have the right protective gear at work if there are high-risk areas.
- Eat a healthy diet—do your SEEDS® every day.
- Be aware of the symptoms of lung cancer.
- Know the risk factors.
- Ask for a CT scan if you are age 55 to 70, are a current smoker (or have quit within the last 15 years), and have a history of smoking one pack per day for 30 or more years.
- Smoking: 85-90 percent of lung cancer cases are attributable to smoking.
- Exposure to second-hand smoke.
- Exposure to radon (found in many homes, radon is a breakdown of uranium in dirt).
- Air pollution.
- Radiation therapy (such as radiation therapy to the chest).
- Family history of lung cancer.
- Personal history of prior lung disease.
- Unhealthy diet (can cause a small increase in your risk).
Yes, there are quite a few risk factors, but many of them are in your control and the experts at true. Women’s Health can help you control these risk factors and lower your overall risk!
Symptoms of lung cancer
The symptoms are important to know, especially because lung cancer in women who are nonsmokers typically develops in the outer part of the lung.
- A persistent cough that won’t go away.
- Coughing up blood.
- Persistent back pain.
- Shortness of breath that happens with a deep inhalation.
- Unusual fatigue.
- Wheezing (especially if you don’t have a history of wheezing).
It’s important that you don’t simply dismiss any of these symptoms if you are experiencing them because early detection is key to surviving lung cancer!
Five important tips
- Be informed that lung cancer happens to women who do not smoke.
- Know the risk factors for lung cancer.
- If you have risk factors, learn what you can do to decrease your risk.
- Know that screening is available and how the symptoms for men and women are different.
- Follow the SEEDS® and be healthy—if cancer occurs, make sure are you in the best condition to cope with the necessary treatment.
Five questions to ask your healthcare provider
- What are my personal risks for lung cancer?
- Am I a candidate for lung cancer screening?
- What other health risks do I have that would make tolerating cancer treatment difficult (diabetes, upcoming surgeries, obesity, breathing issues, high blood pressure, etc.)?
- How can you support me in reducing my risk?
- What symptoms should I watch for as a woman?