Just the Facts on Lung Cancer

Symptoms

Symptoms of lung cancer vary from person to person. Many of these symptoms are not cancer, but if you notice one or more of them for more than two weeks, see your doctor.

  • A cough that will not go away and gets worse over time
  • Constant chest pain, or arm and shoulder pain
  • Coughing up blood
  • Shortness of breath, wheezing or hoarseness
  • Repeated episodes of pneumonia or bronchitis
  • Swelling of the neck and face
  • Loss of appetite or weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Clubbing of fingers

Risk Factors

Many factors may influence the development of lung cancer, including:

  • Smoking This is the most important risk factor. Also at higher risk are individuals who smoke cigars and pipes.
  • Family History Research is beginning to show that a family history of lung cancer may be a risk factor.
  • Personal History A person with a previous lung cancer diagnosis is more likely to develop a second lung cancer.
  • Work or Environment Exposure People who are regularly exposed to radon or asbestos are at a higher risk for developing lung cancer, especially smokers.
  • Radiation Exposure People who are regularly exposed to radiation from their job, medical and environmental sources are at a higher risk for developing lung cancer.
  • Second-hand Tobacco Smoke People who live with smokers are at a higher risk. People who are around smoke regularly are also at a high risk.
  • Lung Diseases People with lung diseases such as tuberculosis (TB) are at higher risk.

What to do…

Screening

Early detection of lung cancer is possible when an abnormal chest X ray incidentally finds a lesion or when patient presents with symptoms early in their disease which is rare. The National Lung Cancer Screening Trial published in 2011 demonstrated a 20% reduction in the chance of dying in a group of high risk patient with smoking history who had a low dose chest CT scan of their lungs yearly, when compared to a group that just had plain chest x rays. Lung cancer screening is recommended for patients older than 50 years of age who have smoked 1 pack per day or more for 30 years (or 2 packs per day for more than 15 years) and who have still smoking or quit in the recent past. Our lung cancer screening program was the first established in central Florida and evaluates patients in several locations.

Reducing your risk

You can take action to reduce your risk of developing lung cancer. UF Health Cancer Center at Orlando Health suggests:

  • Eliminate tobacco use.
  • Use protective equipment around dangerous substances and pollutants.
  • Avoid second-hand smoke.
  • Get a low dose CT for lung cancer screening if you have a heavy smoking history