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Everyone Loves Quitters

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Screenings for lung cancer help save lives.
by Megan Smith

The American Cancer Society will host their Great American Smokeout, a day that encourages smokers to quit or make a plan to quit, on November 21 to help combat the country’s significant tobacco use.

“By quitting—even for one day—smokers will be taking an important step toward a healthier life—one that can lead to reducing cancer risk,” the Society said.

Tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the U.S., according to the Society. However, 43.8 million Americans still smoke cigarettes—that’s nearly one in every five adults.

Serious smoking can lead to serious consequences. Smoking accounts for about 90 percent of all diagnosed lung cancer cases. About 226,160 new cases of lung cancer will be diagnosed this year, and more than 160,000 people will die of the disease, according to the American Cancer Society.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths for both men and women in the U.S, the Society said. People age fifty-five to seventy-four who have smoked the equivalent of one pack of cigarettes a day for thirty years have the highest risk for developing lung cancer.

LGBT folks tend to be more susceptible to the disease, as they smoke at a substantially higher rate than the general population. This higher rate stems from stress due to social stigma and discrimination, peer pressure, aggressive marketing by the tobacco industry, and limited access to effective tobacco treatment, according to the American Lung Association.

Reports show that smoking prevalence among gay and bisexual men is anywhere from 27 to 71 percent higher than the prevalence among their heterosexual counterparts. For lesbians and bisexual women, the prevalence is 70 to 350 percent higher, according to the association.

Little data exists on the smoking rates among transgender people. However, this population has high rates of substance abuse, depression, HIV infection, and social and employment discrimination—all of which are characteristics associated with higher smoking prevalence within
the general public. These factors make the transgender community especially vulnerable, the American Lung Association said.

Although smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer, other factors exist. In early October, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) formally classified outdoor air pollution as carcinogenic. According to data from the organization’s Global Burden of Disease project, air pollution was responsible for 223,000 deaths specifically from lung cancer. “The air we breathe has become polluted with a mixture of cancer-causing substances,” the IARC’s Kurt Straif told the South China Morning Post. “We consider this to be the most important environmental carcinogen— more so than passive smoking.”

With lung cancer, early detection is key, and early treatment can lessen symptoms and improve your chances of living longer. Common lung cancer indicators include a persistent cough, chest pain, coughing up blood, loss of appetite or weight, recurrent bouts of pneumonia or bronchitis, fatigue, wheezing, and hoarseness or shortness of breath.

However, the disease typically does not cause symptoms until it has spread. That’s where screenings come in. The American Lung Association is now suggesting that low-dose CT scans can successfully detect the disease early on and may reduce the risk of death from lung cancer by 20 percent, compared with screenings using standard X-rays. Before you undergo such a screening, be sure to consult your doctor, as there are some rare potential side effects.

The Comprehensive Cancer Center at Park Plaza Hospital (1313 Hermann Dr.) is offering low-dose CT scans for a reduced price of $225. Screenings can be scheduled by calling 1-866-724-2362.

“For people who are smoking, they should stop,” Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, said. “For people who aren’t smoking, they shouldn’t start.”

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Megan Smith

Megan Smith is the Assistant Editor for OutSmart Magazine.

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