Lung Cancer and Women
Robert Miller, MD, Thoracic Surgeon, UPMC Pinnacle Heart and Vascular Institute UPMC Pinnacle
Lung cancer remains a top killer in our country today. According to the CDC, each year more than 200,000 people are diagnosed and 150,000 die from the disease. Most of those affected are long-time nicotine users. And while lung cancer diagnoses are declining for men, the opposite is true for women. More than two-thirds of nonsmokers with lung cancer are women.
Lung cancer occurs when cells in the lung change by growing uncontrollably and cluster together forming a tumor. Symptoms usually do not appear until the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, and unfortunately, it is difficult to detect early.
Currently, there is no recommendation to screen people who are non-smokers or who have no history of smoking. Yet, for at-risk populations, screenings are highly encouraged. Patient history and an evaluation of risk factors are used to decide if screening criteria are met. If so, a yearly low dose CAT scan with no dye and an annual office visit for patients between the ages 55-80 with 20-pack history over their lifetime are required.
Doctors encourage all women to be their own advocate. For any woman who has smoked in the past and who either has symptoms or doesn’t, it’s a good idea to reach out to the UPMC Pinnacle Lung Cancer screening program and talk to their primary caregiver with any concerns. Gathering information and evaluating personal risk factors empower patients and is the best defense in finding early stage disease.
Visit UPMCPinnacle.com/LungScreening for more information.
Signs and Symptoms of Lung Cancer
- A persistent cough that does not go away or gets worse
- Coughing up blood or rust-colored phlegm
- Chest pain that is often worse with deep breathing, coughing, or laughing
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Shortness of breath