C. Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer and the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in African American men and women, according to U.S. government data. Lung cancer was 36 percent more common in African American men than in Caucasian men but occurred at about the same rate for African American and Caucasian women during between 2001 and 2005, the latest data available, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

One way to reduce your risk for developing lung cancer is to refrain from smoking which causes most cancers of the lung and other related areas, including the lip and esophagus. Our researchers are studying ways to encourage people particularly teenagers, to drop this unhealthy habit.

You may be aware that lung cancer is the number one cancer killer in America. But did you also know that if you are African American, you are more likely to develop lung cancer than any other population group in the U.S.? A new report by the American Lung Association explores this troubling disparity in lung health and delivers a call to action to end lung cancer’s lopsided toil on African Americans.

Troubling findings, complex causes

Too Many Cases, Too Many Deaths: Lung Cancer in African Americans, a new report just released by the American Lung Association examines lung cancer among African Americans and the need to eliminate this and other health disparities. The report – which includes a preface by noted oncologist William J. Hicks, M.D. – reveals the complex mix of biological, environmental, political and cultural factors that make African Americans more likely to get lung cancer and more likely to die from it. The findings are eye opening:

  • Despite lower smoking rates, African Americans are more likely to develop and die of lung cancer than whites.
  • African American men are 37 percent more likely to develop lung cancer than white men, even though their overall exposure to cigarette smoke – the primary risk factor for lung cancer – is lower.
  • African Americans are more likely to be diagnosed later, when cancer is more advanced.
  • African Americans are more likely to wait longer after diagnosis to receive treatment, to refuse treatment, and to die in the hospital after surgery.

While the reasons for this unequal burden are not entirely clear, the report presents a compilation of research that examines smoking behavior, workplace exposures, genetics, access to healthcare, discrimination and social stress, as well as other possible contributors as to why African Americans are disproportionally affected by lung cancer.

What is lung cancer?

Lung cancer is a malignancy of lung tissue which originates within the airways or within the lung parenchyma.

What are the types of lung cancer?

There are several types of lung cancer. Lung cancer can be roughly divided into small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer. It is important to characterize non-small cell lung cancer as completely as possible because this will affect the treatment options. There are several types of non-small cell lung cancer, including squamous cell lung cancer, adenocarcinoma and large cell lung cancer.

Who is most likely to get lung cancer?

Cigarette smoking is responsible for in excess of 90 percent of cases of lung cancer. Secondary smoking has also been established to be a risk factor for lung cancer.

What are the causes of lung cancer?

Other associated conditions thought to increase the likelihood of lung cancer include pulmonary fibrosis, asbestos exposure in smokers, exposure to radon, HIV infection and potentially genetic factors.

What are the symptoms of lung cancer?

Unfortunately, there are very few early symptoms of lung cancer which warn the patient or the physician of the condition. However, once lung cancer is advanced, the lesion may obstruct major airways causing collapse of the lung and shortness of breath. A cough is also a major symptom and may be associated with hemoptysis (coughing up blood). Lung cancer can sometimes involve the chest wall or spine causing pain. Oftentimes, the first sign of lung cancer comes from symptoms of metastasis (spread to other organs). Common sites of metastasis include liver, adrenal glands, bone and brain. Lung cancers may also secrete a number of hormonally active compounds causing paraneoplastic syndromes which may also produce symptoms.

How is a person diagnosed with lung cancer?

A diagnosis of lung cancer is suspected many times from imaging studies such as (a) chest X-ray or CT scan of the chest. Diagnosis requires biopsy with pathologic examination.

How is a person treated for lung cancer?

The treatment options for lung cancer include surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. The decision about the type of treatment is dependent upon the type of lung cancer and its stage.

Is it possible to prevent lung cancer?

The most effective preventive behavior for lung cancer risk reduction is to avoid either primary or secondary cigarette smoke.

What else would you tell people about lung cancer prevention?

The National Lung Screening Trial concluded approximately two years ago that annual low dose CT scan screening of the chest was effective in detecting early stage lung cancer. Patients enrolled in the study had an approximately 20 percent decrease in mortality compared to conventional (no screening) treatment. Controversy still exists over implementing this strategy in the general population.

Lung cancer fast facts

  • Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among men and women.
  • More people die of lung cancer each year than of colon, breast and prostate cancers combined.
  • Approximately two out of three people diagnosed with lung cancer are 65 or older.
  • Less than 2 percent of all lung cancer cases are found in people younger than 45.
  • The average age at the time of diagnosis of lung cancer is about 71.
  • The chance that a man will develop lung cancer in his lifetime is about one in 13.
  • The risk that a woman will develop lung cancer in her lifetime is approximately one in 16.
  • More than 350,000 people who are alive today have been diagnosed with lung cancer at some point.

Source: American Cancer Society

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