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Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is the most common form of cancer and the leading cancer killer in the United States.  It is responsible for nearly one third of all cancer deaths.

Lung cancer is increasing in this country, especially among women.  About 160,000 Americans are expected to die from lung cancer this year.  Dr. Peter White, professor of pulmonary medicine at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield, explains the primary cause of lung cancer.

SOUND BITE:    “In the United States and the industrialized countries, it’s cigarette smoking.  In the United States, it is estimated that on the order of 85 to 89 percent of lung cancer cases are directly attributable to cigarette smoke.”

Dr. White, who also is a member of the Simmons Cancer Institute at SIU, says other risk factors include exposure to asbestos or radon, environmental factors and secondhand smoke.  

He says there is no widely-used screening tool for lung cancer, so most cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage, usually by a chest X-ray.  He explains some of the symptoms.

SOUND BITE:  “The symptoms of lung cancer unfortunately are nonspecific, so it’s a cough.  Sometimes you cough up blood, although that’s not terribly common – wheezing, chest pain, shortness of breath, weight loss.  They’re very nonspecific and they occur in most respiratory illnesses.”

Dr. White encourages people to stop smoking to lower their risk of lung cancer.  If you or someone you know has a persistent cough and chest pain, a personal physician can provide a thorough exam or make a referral to a pulmonary specialist for further testing.

This is Ruth Slottag at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield.