Lung Cancer: NWHIC


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Article title: Lung Cancer: NWHIC
Conditions: Lung Cancer, smoking
Source: NWHIC

LUNG CANCER

How common is lung cancer in women?
Can I develop lung cancer if I don't smoke?
What is the current treatment for lung cancer?
As a woman, what is my risk for lung cancer if I smoke?

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How common is lung cancer in women?

Lung cancer is the largest single cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. (28% of all cancer deaths.) For years, men were at higher risk for lung cancer because of their higher smoking rates. However, with the rising number of women who smoke, lung cancer surpassed breast cancer in 1987 as the leading cause of cancer deaths among women.

Can I develop lung cancer if I don't smoke?

87% of lung cancer is caused by smoking, so what about the other 13%? There is evidence that exposure to tobacco smoke in the home, usually from a smoking spouse, may increase the risk of lung cancer in non-smoking women. Nearly 9 out of 10 non-smoking Americans are exposed to environmental tobacco smoke (also known as "second-hand" smoke), as measured by levels of nicotine in their blood. The best scientific studies show that restrictions on second hand smoke reduce the risk of death and injury to non-smokers, including the hundreds of thousands of children with asthma and other respiratory illness. The FDA has classified second-hand smoke as a Group A carcinogen (known to cause cancer in humans.) Studies have also evaluated environmental tobacco exposure outside the home, either in a work or social setting but they provide inconclusive results. More studies are needed to determine how much exposure might be harmful in any of these settings.

What is the current treatment for lung cancer?

The best way to avoid death from lung cancer is never to smoke, or to stop smoking. Once it is diagnosed, there are several treatment options, including radiation, various chemotherapies and surgery. Survival rates have improved for non small-cell lung cancer because of advances in combination radiation/chemotherapy treatment. However, small cell lung cancer is still very difficult to treat. Small cell is the most aggressive of lung cancers, and many patients have advanced disease at the time of diagnosis. Small cell lung cancer is responsive to both chemotherapy and radiation, yet nearly all these patients eventually relapse and need additional treatment.

There is a clear need for more effective treatments for lung cancer. There are constant new advances in molecular medicine, which have recently led to new drugs that can protect normal cells from being destroyed from chemotherapy.

Early detection remains the key to successful therapy. If you have a history of chronic coughing, coughing up blood, chest pain or fever you should have an evaluation by your physician as soon as possible.

As a woman, what is my risk for lung cancer if I smoke?

Lung cancer is now the leading cause of cancer deaths among women. Cigarette smoking is the main culprit and responsible for 80% of these cancer deaths. Lung cancer has always been and continues to be more common in men than women but the difference is declining. Unfortunately statistics show that smoking rates among women are expected to surpass those among men by the year 2000.

Lung cancer is not the only smoking related cause of death in women. The World Health Organization states that at least 25% of women smokers will die of smoking-related disease such as cardiovascular disease and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

For more information . . .

You can find out more about Lung Cancer by contacting the following organizations:

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)

Alliance for Lung Cancer Advocacy, Support, and Education
(800)-298-2436,

American Cancer Society
(800) 227-2345

American Lung Association
(800) 586-4872

Contributing to this FAQ on lung Cancer: MCP Hahnemann, a National Center of Excellence in Women's Health sponsored by the Office on Women's Health in the Department of Health and Human Services.

All material contained in the FAQs is free of copyright restrictions, and may be copied, reproduced, or duplicated without permission of the Office on Women's Health in the Department of Health and Human Services; citation of the sources is appreciated.

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Publication date: 1998

 



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