4 Questions Louisianans Should Ask About Lung Cancer & Screenings

Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in both men and women. According to the American Lung Association, Louisiana is above the national average in lung cancer cases. Louisiana’s rate of new lung cancer cases is 66.6 per 100,000 people, while the national rate is 58.7 cases. It is the most common cause of cancer deaths in Louisiana.

Cigarette smoking accounts for 80-90% of lung cancer deaths. Smoking even a few cigarettes a day increases your risk.

However, there is good news. According to the American Lung Association, the rate of new lung cancer cases in Louisiana has dropped 8% between 2016 and 2020. Improving public health, paired with innovations in lung cancer screening and treatment, is helping people to quit smoking for good.

Lung cancer screening leads to early detection. November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. When lung cancer is found early, it is more treatable. Getting screened and seeking timely care increases your chances for good outcomes from lung cancer treatment. Take a self-assessment and contact your primary care physician if the results indicate you are eligible.

If you are at high risk for developing cancer or have concerning symptoms, you may be eligible for expert lung cancer screening. With low-dose CT screening technology and the most advanced treatment for all stages of cancer, people diagnosed with the disease can have more tomorrows.

If you smoke, it’s never too late to quit. Use this guide as a starting point in your quest to go tobacco-free. When you are ready to get screened, contact your primary care physician.

1. Why Is it Important to Quit Smoking?

When you quit smoking, your body experiences positive effects almost immediately. The long-term effects are incredible. Here is what happens when you quit smoking:

  • 20 minutes: Heart rate and blood pressure decrease
  • 12 hours: Carbon monoxide levels return to normal
  • 3 months: Circulation and lunch function improve
  • 9 months: Coughing and shortness of breath decrease
  • 1 year: Reduce risk of heart disease by 50%
  • 10 years: Your risk of lung center is half that of current smoker
  • 15 years: Your risk of heart disease is close to that of a non-smoke

What happens when you quit smoking?

2. Am I at Risk to Develop Lung Cancer?

Smoking tobacco is the leading cause of lung cancer. It is also the leading cause of preventable death. According to the CDC, non-smokers exposed to secondhand smoke are at a 20-30% increased risk of developing lung cancer.

Radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer. It is a naturally occurring gas that you cannot smell, taste, or see. As many as one in 15 homes in the U.S. may have high radon levels. Tests are available to measure the level in your home.

Asbestos exposure at work is associated with 4-12% of lung cancers, according to the ATSDR. Government regulations over the past several decades have reduced the use of asbestos in commercial and industrial products. However, it may still be present in older homes.

Family risk factors cannot be avoided. Patients with a family history of cancer and those who have pulmonary fibrosis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may be at increased risk. Explore more lung cancer risk factors.


3. What Are the Symptoms of Lung Cancer?

Lung cancer symptoms typically don’t show until the cancer has already reached an advanced stage. Lung cancer has a higher chance of successful treatment if it’s found early.

The most common symptoms of lung cancer often mimic those of other respiratory illnesses:

  • Persistent cough
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling tired for no reason
  • Weight loss with no known cause


4. Who Should Get Screened for Lung Cancer?

The American Cancer Society recommends lung cancer screening based on “pack years” of smoking. One pack year equates to smoking 20 cigarettes (one package) daily for one year.

People who are eligible for lung cancer screening include:

  • Anyone age 55-74 with a smoking history of 30 pack years or more (and who quit less than 15 years ago).
  • Anyone age 50 or older with a smoking history of 20 pack years or more (and at least one additional risk factor besides secondhand smoke).

Lung cancer screening is painless and convenient. To find out whether you qualify for a screening, take a self-assessment test and contact your primary care physician if the results indicate you are eligible