November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. Understanding this type of cancer is incredibly important to keep families and communities healthy because often, it’s preventable. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Unlike other cancers, lung cancer mortality is often tied to one single behavior: smoking cigarettes.
Almost nine out of ten lung cancer deaths are caused by smoking. The chemicals in tobacco products enter the bloodstream and travels through the body, hurting cellular DNA. This damage leads to the atypical cell growth that can turn into cancer. Because smoking can also weaken the immune system, the body may not be able to strongly fight the disease.
Early detection, done by low-dose CT scan, is vital. The earlier lung cancer is detected, the more likely it is to be curable. Localized lung cancer, when the cancer hasn’t spread beyond the lung, has a five-year survival rate of 56%, compared to an 18.6% average. However, according to the American Lung Association, only 16% of lung cancer cases are diagnosed at this early stage. Anyone between 50 and 80 years old who’s a current smoker with a 20+ pack-year history, or has quit smoking at that frequency within the last 15 years, meets the recommendation for yearly lung cancer screenings.
Find out more about lung cancer screenings from the American Lung Association
One of the best cures is prevention. Quitting smoking at any age improves the chances of not getting lung cancer, slowing the disease’s progression, and living longer past a diagnosis.
Find out more health benefits of quitting from the American Cancer Society
Nicotine addiction is powerful. According to the Mayo Clinic:
Nicotine is the chemical in tobacco that keeps you smoking. Nicotine reaches the brain within seconds of taking a puff. In the brain, nicotine increases the release of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, which help regulate mood and behavior.
Dopamine, one of these neurotransmitters, is released in the reward center of the brain and causes feelings of pleasure and improved mood.
The more you smoke, the more nicotine you need to feel good. Nicotine quickly becomes part of your daily routine and intertwined with your habits and feelings.
If you never start smoking, you’ll never need to quit – and it’s never too early to talk about it. People often begin smoking when they’re in their teens or even earlier. Genetics, parents or friends who smoke, other substance use, and depression all play a role in influencing someone to start and build the habit.
Nicotine use of any kind, including vaping with e-cigarettes, is dangerous to lungs of all ages. It’s especially worth having conversations early with young people about using nicotine, since the brain is in a critical developmental phase in childhood through early adulthood. Habits are also easily formed at a younger age and young people are more susceptible to peer pressure and can struggle with good decision-making. Addiction can happen quickly, especially if a young person has one or more risk factors, including age, genetic factors, parents or peers that smoke, or depression. Since 3.3% of middle schoolers and 14.1% of high schoolers are currently vaping, the time to talk about it is now.
Breaking the habit is tough. It might require help from different sources, including trained medical professionals. Make an appointment with Roseman Medical Group to get the support to help you quit and keep your health on track.