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11-29-11

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 cancer deaths.

Lung cancer is increasing in this country.  More than 150,000 Americans are expected to die from lung cancer this year.  Dr. Stephen Hazelrigg, professor and chief of cardiothoracic surgery at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield, explains risk factors for lung cancer.

SOUND BITE:    “There’s a number of factors that are related to lung cancer, smoking being by far the most common, obviously.  But there are some other inhaled things.   In this area we have radon, which is the radio activity that exists in the soil and certain places.  There is asbestos that some people have been exposed to that is also a causer.”

Dr. Hazelrigg, who also is a member of the Simmons Cancer Institute at SIU, says secondhand smoke is another risk factor.   He says no widely-used screening tool is available for lung cancer, so most cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage, usually by a chest X-ray.  He explains some of the symptoms of lung cancer.

SOUND BITE:  “. . .  the most common symptom is cough.  Of course, there are many, many other things that cause people to cough.  If people cough up any blood in their sputum when they cough, then  that’s a particular concern.  Sometimes people will have some shortness of breath if a cancer is causing plugging up some of the airways.”

Dr. Hazelrigg 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 specialist for further testing.

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