In support of World Lung Cancer Day, the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS), of which the American College of Chest Physicians (CHEST) is a founding member, stresses the importance of community action and early screening to prevent and treat lung cancer.
Responsible for 25% of all cancer deaths, lung cancer remains a topic of concern. According to the World Health Organization, more people die of lung cancer each year than colon, breast and liver cancers combined. Worldwide, in 2020, there were 2.21 million new cases of lung cancer and 1.80 million deaths. Despite these alarming statistics, the rate of lung cancer is dropping because of tobacco cessation efforts.
‘World Lung Cancer Day is an excellent opportunity to raise awareness for people affected by lung cancer and is also effective for its prevention, the most important being tobacco cessation,’ says CHEST President Steven Simpson, MD, FCCP. ‘Eliminating tobacco use is the number one way to reduce lung cancer cases. The community can play an important role through education around preventable risk factors for lung cancer and the importance of early detection to most effectively treat lung cancer.’
To reduce the prevalence of lung cancer, the Centers for Disease Control recommends community action and education, including:
- Public education around lung cancer risk factors
- Reducing minors’ access to tobacco products and e-cigarettes
- Helping people quit using tobacco products
- Helping people avoid secondhand smoke
- Reducing exposure to radon
- Encouraging people to be screened for lung cancer as recommended
‘To support tobacco cessation, CHEST created a Tobacco Dependence Treatment Toolkit for clinicians to help their patients along the path to quitting tobacco,’ says Simpson. ‘It’s not an easy conversation to have with a patient, but with the right tools, a physician can be the support system needed to quit successfully.’
In addition to tobacco cessation, access to screening is vital for reducing lung cancer deaths through early detection and treatment; if lung cancer is found early when it is small and before it has spread, it is more likely to be successfully treated.
Lung cancer screening with a low-dose tomography (also known as low-dose CT or LDCT) scan is recommended for at-risk people to detect the earliest stages of lung cancer before symptoms occur. The American Cancer Society recommends that all current or former smokers and those over 55 consider seeking a low-dose CT scan screening to detect lung cancer in its earliest stages potentially.
When they present, lung cancer symptoms include the change in mucus, chest or back pain, coughing up blood and difficulty swallowing. Timely and equitable access to health care for assessment and treatment is vital.