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Tobacco and Lung Cancer
Could Your Dreams Go Up in Smoke?
Byron was 15 when his friends urged him to try a cigarette. At first he was reluctant – he thought about the film
his class had watched about smoking and the image of a black, diseased smokerís lung compared to a pink, healthy
nonsmoker's lung. But the pressure to be cool and fit in was too much, and Byron took his first puff. Now at age 53,
Byron is a chain smoker with breathing problems. And to make matters worse, Byronís doctor just gave him some
unsettling news: There's a suspicious spot on one of his lungs – a spot that could be cancer.
Lung cancer is the No. 1 lethal
cancer of men and women, and
more Americans die each year
from lung cancer than from breast,
prostate and colorectal cancers combined.
Sadly, the majority of these
deaths could have been prevented,
because nearly 90 percent of lung
cancers are tobacco-related.
Who's at Risk?
"It's no surprise that smokers are at
greatest risk of developing lung cancer,
but nonsmokers can get lung cancer
too, especially those who are exposed
to secondhand smoke," says Mauricio A.
Reinoso, M.D., pulmonologist on staff at
Methodist Sugar Land Hospital. The
American Cancer Society estimates
about 162,460 people died from lung
cancer in 2006. And the American Lung
Association reports that 3,400 lung
cancer deaths are caused by secondhand
smoke each year.
Playing with Fire
Cigarettes and secondhand smoke
contain a number of chemicals known
to be toxic or carcinogenic (cancer-causing),
including carbon monoxide,
arsenic, ammonia and formaldehyde.
According to the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention, smoking harms
nearly every organ in the body and
reduces the health of smokers in
general. Smoking contributes to a wide
range of health problems, including
respiratory tract infections, heart
disease, stroke, infertility and low bone
density. In addition to lung cancer,
smokers are more likely to have cancer
of the bladder, oral cavity, pharynx,
larynx, esophagus, kidney, pancreas
"Lung cancer has a high death rate
because it typically does not produce
symptoms until the cancer is advanced
and more difficult to treat," says Dr.
Reinoso. Nearly 60 percent of people
diagnosed with lung cancer die within
one year of their diagnosis. There are
two types of lung cancer: non-small cell
lung cancer and small cell lung cancer.
Non-small cell lung cancer is more
common and spreads to the body more
slowly than small cell lung cancer.
Treatment options depend on the type
of cancer and if it has spread. Surgery,
radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy
may be used for treatment.
Prevention Is the
Never smoking and avoiding secondhand
smoke are the best ways to
protect yourself and your loved ones
from developing lung cancer. If you
smoke, quit. It may be difficult, but
there are resources to help you. Talk to
your doctor about smoking cessation
programs or visit www.smokefree.gov or the American Cancer Society at
www.cancer.org for educational
information and support to help you
quit for good.
Dr. Reinoso identifies the following as
possible signs of lung cancer:
- A cough that does not go away
- Chest pain
- Trouble breathing
- Coughing up bloody mucus
- Many lung infections, such
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
Early detection of lung cancer significantly
increases survival rates.