Health Care

Lung Cancer: Prevention, Detection and Treatment

Doctor checking an older male patient's lungs with a stethoscope.

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According to the American Cancer Society, approximately one in 16 men and one in 17 women will develop lung cancer during their lives. Learn more about the disease and our recommendations for lung cancer prevention, detection and treatment.

About Lung Cancer

Lung cancer develops in your lungs — the two organs in your chest responsible for bringing oxygen into your body when you breathe and releasing carbon dioxide when you exhale.

There are two main types of lung cancer: small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). NSCLC makes up most lung cancers — roughly 80% to 85%, according to the American Cancer Society.

Prevention of Lung Cancer

If you have a family history of lung cancer or have been diagnosed with a previous lung disease, you’re at higher risk for developing the disease. However, there are several steps you can take to reduce your risks.

Without question, the most important way you can protect yourself from lung cancer is by not smoking cigarettes. Smoking causes 80% to 90% of lung cancer cases, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research. However, it is still possible to develop the disease even if you’ve never smoked or used tobacco.

In addition to not smoking, you can help prevent lung cancer by avoiding:

  • All tobacco products, including cigars and pipes
  • Drinking water contaminated by arsenic
  • High-dose beta-carotene supplements
  • Indoor air pollution
  • Occupational exposures, such as asbestos and radon
  • Secondhand smoke

Lung Cancer Screenings

When caught early, lung cancer is often easier to treat. That’s why your doctor may recommend you have a lung cancer screening — a low-dose computed tomography scan (LDCT) — if you’re at a high risk for developing the disease.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends regular lung cancer screenings for anyone between ages 50 and 80 with a history of heavy smoking. They define a heavy smoker as a current or former smoker (anyone who has quit within the past 15 years, specifically) who has smoked an average of a pack of cigarettes a day for 20 years or more.

The USPSTF recommends people at high risk for lung cancer get screened yearly to detect cancer cells early.

Lung Cancer Treatment

Lung cancer treatment typically depends on the type of lung cancer you have and how far it’s spread. Often, treatment for people with SCLC includes chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Treatment for NSCLC may consist of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy or a combination of these treatments.

In many cases, lung cancer that hasn’t spread (early-stage lung cancer) can be treated with surgery — typically to remove an entire section, or lobe, of the lung containing the tumor. However, a recent clinical trial supported by the National Cancer Institute showed that removing a piece of the affected lobe can sometimes be just as effective.

New medications have also received Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval in recent years to treat early-stage lung cancer. These include a targeted therapy drug given after other immunotherapy drugs, either before or after surgery and chemotherapy.

For advanced lung cancer, or cancer that’s spread to other areas of your body, newer therapies are also available. Several immune checkpoint inhibitors, which block an interaction between immune cells and cancer cells so the immune cells will attack the cancer cells, have received FDA approval. Many targeted therapy drugs have also been approved.

Cancer Care for the Body, Mind and Spirit

At AdventHealth, we know lung cancer affects your whole health. That’s why our experts provide whole-person health care, using our advanced lung cancer treatments combined with compassionate, personalized care. We’ll support you throughout your cancer journey — with your care team putting you at the center of every decision, every step of the way.

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