According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), nearly 220,000 people will have been diagnosed with lung cancer (LC) in the U.S. during 2009. During that same year, the disease will have been deemed responsible for nearly 160,000 deaths. Despite its prevalence, there remains a startlingly high level of confusion regarding the condition. Sadly, this confusion prevents many of those who suffer from lung cancer from seeking the medical attention they need.
Below, we’ll clarify and debunk a few of the most common fallacies that persist. Some of the following may sound intuitive. Others may surprise you.
Tip 1 – People Who Don’t Smoke Aren’t In Danger
Smoking is a leading cause of LC. Most diagnosed cases of the disease involve patients who are lifelong smokers. That said, thousands of people are diagnosed each year who have never smoked in their lives. Moreover, thousands more cope with LC after having quit smoking years prior to their diagnosis.
Also, it’s worth underscoring that the condition can also be caused by exposure to radon gas, asbestos, and environmental factors. The reality is, any person can be diagnosed with the disease – smoker or non-smoker.
Tip 2 – The Risk Is Everywhere And Thus, Inescapable
This fallacy is dangerous because it dissuades people from avoiding factors that are known to increase the likelihood of LC. For example, a person may agree to share an apartment with an habitual smoker without realizing that thousands of people die each year from lung cancer caused by secondhand smoke. Or, they may be less likely to test their living spaces for the presence of radon gas. They might be less careful around asbestos and other chemicals.
To be sure, the risk is pervasive. But you can limit your exposure to factors that are known to contribute to the disease.
Tip 3 – Elderly People Cannot Be Treated Successfully
An individual’s health is a better barometer than age regarding the likelihood they’ll respond favorably to treatment. The elderly are often more susceptible to side effects related to chemotherapy. However, many older patients who enjoy an active lifestyle respond nearly as well as younger patients.
Also, minimally invasive lung cancer surgery techniques are being used in more hospitals than ever. This means surgery may be an option for an increasing number of older patients.
Tip 4 – Being Diagnosed Means Smoking Is Fine
Many lifelong smokers believe there is no reason to stop smoking after they are diagnosed with lung cancer. In truth, there are a few important reasons to quit. First, doing so can dramatically improve the chances of success during surgery. Second, quitting may increase the effectiveness of radiation therapy. Third, if the disease is detected while it is in its early stages, successful treatment is likely. Quitting smoking reduces the chance you’ll die from unrelated causes (e.g. heart disease).
Tip 5 – Breast Cancer Is A Much Bigger Problem For Women
According to the NCI, nearly as many women as men are diagnosed with lung cancer each year. What’s more, while the incidence rate in men declined beginning in 1991, it has actually risen for women. While the reasons for this disparity remain unknown, women typically develop the disease after smoking for fewer years than men. Breast cancer is a severe condition. But a higher number of women die from lung cancer each year.
As noted earlier, the most dangerous thing about the five fallacies described above is that many patients refuse to seek the treatment they need. This disease metastasizes and spreads quickly. If it is caught while still localized within a single lobe or lung, it can be treated successfully. Once the cancerous cells spread to other areas of the body, the survival rate plummets. Learn as much as you can about lung cancer, and consult your physician regarding the forms of treatment available to you.