Breast Cancer and Lung Cancer: Which Is The Bigger Threat To Women? - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on January 06, 2013

Breast Cancer and Lung Cancer: Which Is The Bigger Threat To Women?

Breast cancer gets a lot of attention. And it should – it’s a pernicious disease, and women have rightly rallied to the cause of battling it. The media covers the truly moving marches, walks and other events at which survivors are celebrated. It has become a national movement, and a model for grass roots advocacy.

But here’s the truth – it’s nowhere near the deadliest cancer for women.

The American Lung Association reports that lung cancer kills almost twice as many women as breast cancer each year. The American Cancer Society estimated that about 72,500 American women died of lunch cancer in 2012, compared to about 39,500 breast cancer deaths. Lung cancer is far and away the leading cancer killer for women, and has been for 25 years. Most worrisome is the fact the number of women dying from lung cancer has skyrocketed 106 percent over the last 33 years.

That’s a scary trend, and yet virtually no one is talking about it.

Researchers theorize that the rise of smoking among women in the 1960s and 70s has a lot to do with this increase.

But that’s the past. What can we do looking forward that will reverse this trend and save the lives of women, especially those at high risk of lung cancer?

Women at high risk for lung cancer as those who smoke or did previously smoked, are between the ages of 55 and 75, have a smoking history of at least 30 “pack-years.” Thirty pack-years is the equivalent of one pack a day for 30 years, or two packs a day for 15 years, etc.

The first and most important thing to do is to stop smoking if you’re a smoker. Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer, but it is not the only one. Secondhand smoke can also contribute to the disease, as can genetics, radon exposure, air pollution and other environmental factors.

The second step that women in the high-risk group should do is getting screened for lung cancer; studies have shown that lung cancer screening can reduce lung cancer deaths by 20 percent. The screening is a non-invasive CT scan that identifies the size and shape of any lung abnormalities; that’s the first step to any needed treatment.

Find out more about Crozer-Keystone’s Lung Cancer Screening program.

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