November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, and Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Director Amy Acton, MD, MPH, is encouraging Ohioans at high risk for lung cancer to talk with their healthcare providers about getting screened.
The American Lung Association estimates that just 5.2% of high-risk Ohioans and 4.2% of high-risk Americans receive screening for the disease.
“Lung cancer screenings for high-risk individuals can save lives by detecting tumors in early stages when they are more likely to be curable,” said Dr. Acton.
The screening, Dr. Acton said, involves a low-dose computed tomography (CT) scan that takes just 30 seconds.
When caught in its earliest stages, Ohio’s survival rate for lung cancer is 56%. Once the disease has spread to adjacent organs or lymph nodes, the survival rate drops to 29%, and once it spreads to distant organs, the survival rate is just 5%.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention supports the recommendations of the independent United States Preventative Services Task Force, which suggests screenings for smokers who meet all the following criteria:
- Are between ages 55 and 80
- Have a history of heavy smoking, defined as a pack a day for 30 years or the equivalent (e.g. two packs a day for 15 years)
- Currently smoke or quit fewer than 15 years ago
Dr. Acton also is asking Ohioans to fight the stigma of lung cancer as a “self-inflicted” condition caused by smoking. Such stigma can lead people with the disease to hide the diagnosis from their families or friends or keep them from seeking treatment.
“Smoking is an addiction,” Dr. Acton said. “Nobody deserves lung cancer, and we must treat people with lung cancer with compassion and care.”
While smoking is the number one cause of lung cancer deaths, other risk factors include industrial chemicals, such as asbestos and arsenic, environmental agents, such as radon, and certain genetic mutations.
Ohio’s 2018 estimated adult smoking rate of 21% is higher than the 16% of adults who smoke nationally.
Dr. Acton said that Ohio’s new Tobacco 21 law will save lives.
“The science tells us that 95% of adult smokers began before they turned 21, and if you don’t start before then, you probably never will,” she said.
Ohio’s new Tobacco 21 law raising the age for the sale of tobacco and vaping products from 18 to 21 took effect on Oct. 17.
To help reduce your risk of developing lung cancer:
- If you smoke, judgement-free, no-cost help for adults is available at the Ohio Tobacco Quit Line, 1-800-QUIT-NOW. Ohioans under 18 can call or text My Life My Quit at 1-855-891-9989.
- If you are at high risk for lung cancer, talk to your healthcare provider about a screening. The American Lung Association offers information and resources about screening on its website at www.lung.org.
- Get your home tested for radon, a colorless odorless gas that is the second-leading cause of lung cancer. ODH offers information about radon and free radon test kits for those who qualify here.