Wellness Wednesday: November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month

Lung cancer is the #1 cancer killer of women in the United States.

lung_cancer_awarenessLung cancer is the second most common cancer in both men and women (not counting skin cancer), and is by far the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women. Each year, more people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined.

Most lung cancers could be prevented, because they are related to smoking (or secondhand smoke), or less often to exposure to radon, asbestos or other environmental factors. The more cigarettes you smoke per day and the earlier you started smoking, the greater your risk of lung cancer. But some lung cancers occur in people without any known risk factors for the disease and it is not yet clear if these cancers can be prevented.

Common symptoms of lung cancer include:

  • Coughing that gets worse or doesn’t go away
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing up blood
  • Feeling very tired all the time
  • Weight loss with no known cause

Prevention

QuitSmoking3Not all lung cancers can be prevented, but there are some ways you can reduce your risk of getting lung cancer. The best way to reduce risk is not to smoke and to avoid breathing in other people’s smoke.

If you stop smoking before a cancer develops, your damaged lung tissue gradually starts to repair itself. No matter what your age or how long you’ve smoked, quitting may lower your risk of lung cancer and help you live longer. People who stop smoking before age 50 cut their risk of dying in the next 15 years in half compared with those who continue to smoke.

Limiting your exposure to secondhand smoke might also help lower your risk of lung cancer, as well as some other cancers.

Radon is an important cause of lung cancer. You can reduce your exposure to radon by having your home tested and treated, if needed.

Avoiding exposure to known cancer-causing chemicals, in the workplace and elsewhere, may also be helpful (see “What are the risk factors for lung cancer?”). When people work where these exposures are common, they should be kept to a minimum. Be sure to follow proper safety procedures, such as wearing a respirator, if this applies at your workplace.

A healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables may also help reduce your risk of lung cancer. Some evidence suggests that a diet high in fruits and vegetables may help protect against lung cancer in both smokers and non-smokers. But any positive effect of fruits and vegetables on lung cancer risk would be much less than the increased risk from smoking.

Some people who get lung cancer do not have any clear risk factors. Although we know how to prevent most lung cancers, at this time we don’t know how to prevent all of them.

Early Detection and Screening

lungcancerMost lung cancers have already spread widely and are at an advanced stage when they are first found. These cancers are very hard to cure. But in recent years, doctors have found a test that can be used to screen for lung cancer in people at high risk of the disease. This test can help find some of these cancers early, which can lower the risk of dying from this disease.

American Cancer Society Screening Guidelines for lung cancer

Exams and tests to look for lung cancer

Diagnosis and Treatment

Doctors diagnose lung cancer using a physical exam, imaging and lab tests. Lung cancer is treated in several ways, depending on the type, stage, and how advanced it is. People with non-small cell lung cancer can be treated with surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy, or a combination of these treatments. People with small cell lung cancer are usually treated with radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

  • Surgery. An operation where doctors cut out cancer tissue.
  • Chemotherapy. Using special medicines to shrink or kill the cancer. The drugs can be pills you take or medicines given in your veins, or sometimes both.
  • Radiation therapy. Using high-energy rays (similar to X-rays) to kill the cancer.
  • Targeted therapy. Using drugs to block the growth and spread of cancer cells. The drugs can be pills you take or medicines given in your veins.

Sources: American Cancer Society, NIH: National Cancer Institute and The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).


More Information

How the American Cancer Society Fights Lung Cancer
CDC: Lung Cancer Awareness
Free to Breathe
National Cancer Institute

Wellness Wednesday: Live Healthier and Lower Your Risk for Type 2 Diabetes

Did you know that simply by living a healthier lifestyle, you could dramatically reduce the possibility of developing Type 2 diabetes?

iStock_000014865391_LargeIn fact, recent studies by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) report that by engaging in physical activity, eating a healthier diet, maintaining an appropriate body weight, limiting alcohol consumption and not smoking you can cut your risk of diabetes by as much as 80 percent.

November is American Diabetes Month and Mercy Health System would like to take this opportunity to encourage you to care for yourself, and your loved ones, by reminding you of the importance of preventive care.

NIH studies show that having a body weight appropriate for your height and age by itself reduced the risk of developing diabetes by 60 to 70 percent. Eating a healthier diet reduced the risk by about 15 percent and not smoking lowered the risk by about 20 percent.

Here are some tips from the NIH and the National Diabetes Education Program to help you make gradual lifestyle changes that can help you prevent Type 2 diabetes:

If you are overweight, set a weight loss goal you can meet (check in with your doctor before starting any weight loss plan).

  • Aim to lose about five to seven percent of your current weight and keep it off
  • Keep track of your daily food intake and physical activity in a logbook and review it daily
  • For support, invite family and friends to get involved

Make healthier food choices every day.

  • Keep healthier snacks, such as fruit and vegetables, at home and at work
  • Pack healthier lunches for you and your family
  • Choose low-fat diary products
  • Eat whole-grain cereals, breads, crackers, brown rice, pasta or oatmeal
  • Select lean meats and poultry
  • Choose more fish, beans, peas, nuts and seeds as protein sources

Strive to become more physically active. It’s easy to build physical activity into your day:

  • Take a brisk walk during lunchtime
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator or park farther away from your office
  • Join a community program like The YMCA as a family and choose activities that everyone can enjoy

Restrict alcohol consumption. Your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes rises with an increase in alcohol consumption – limit yourself to no more than one drink a day.

If you smoke, quit (and don’t quit quitting). Smokefree.gov offers some great tips and a step-by-step guide on how to begin.

Be sure to embrace a healthy spirit. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), high levels of stress can have negative effects on your blood sugar levels. That’s why it’s important to practice good relaxation techniques. The ADA recommends the following:

  • Breathing exercises: Sit or lie down and uncross your legs and arms. Take in a deep breath. Then push out as much air as you can then relax your muscles. Do these exercises for a minimum of five minutes at least once a day.
  • Replace negative thoughts with positive ones: If a negative thought is going through your mind, replace it with something that makes you happy or peaceful. You may also visualize a favorite nature scene to lessen anxiety and promote more serenity.

Last, but not least, getting annual physicals and tests from your doctor is key in sustaining your health and helping prevent diseases like diabetes. Having a Primary Care Physician (PCP) who can coordinate your care is vital to your good health. A PCP typically specializes in family medicine, internal medicine or general practice.

If you don’t have a PCP, finding one is easy! Just visit your insurance carrier’s website, look for the “find a doctor” area and follow the instructions.

To find a Mercy Health physician, visit www.mercyhealth.org and use our Find-A-Doctor tool.


More Information:

Taking Care of Type 2 Diabetes [PDF]