By Kathryn Roethel of the SF Gate
The No. 1 killing cancer is not the one many people think of first. It’s not the one with the pink ribbon, or the one whose controversial screenings are grabbing headlines. It’s lung cancer. And even though it’s the third-most commonly diagnosed type, behind prostate and breast cancers, it claims more than twice as many lives annually than both of those – combined.
The majority of lung cancer patients are current or former smokers, but even non-smokers are at risk. And while survival rates have increased for many cancers over the last 40 years, the lung cancer five-year survival rate – 15 percent – hasn’t changed much. Symptoms don’t usually surface until the disease is in late stages, and even then they’re ambiguous – coughing, chest pain, weight loss and shortness of breath – so lung cancer is difficult to catch and treat early.
Researchers are trying to change that. Dr. Ann Leung, professor of radiology at Stanford, cites a recent New England Journal of Medicine study showing that a lung CT scan using a low dose of radiation could be a good screening option for some of the heaviest smokers. But the screening comes with risks of its own.
The numbers tell the story.
1 in 4