Smoking is the number one cause of lung cancer in the United States.
“Of the cases of lung cancer diagnosed each year, 85 percent are smokers and the remaining 15 percent represent non-smokers,” said Dr. Nadeem Ahmed, a pulmonologist with OSF Saint Anthony’s Physician Group.
November is not only National Lung Cancer Awareness Month, it’s also the month that the American Cancer Society promotes its Great American Smokeout. Held the third Thursday of November (November 17 this year), the Great American Smokeout is a time for smokers to take the pledge to stop smoking.
“In this country, the rate of people smoking has been declining, but the rate of other lung diseases like COPD and emphysema has been increasing,” Dr. Ahmed said. “While more people have quit smoking, the damage from the time they did smoke eventually catches up with them. We have to deal with all the backlog.”
Nonsmokers also can be affected by those who smoke around them.
“Second-hand smoke exposure has been validated and its side effect confirmed in terms of the impact on a person’s health,” Dr. Ahmed. “Those exposed to second-hand smoke can develop emphysema, COPD, lung cancer, and it exacerbates asthma or bronchitis. It’s definitely something to be avoided. If your spouse is smoking a pack a day, it’s similar to you smoking a pack a day. The Great American Smokeout is a good time to encourage your loved ones, friends and co-workers to quit smoking.”
Dr. Ahmed said the use of e-cigarette and vapes should be avoided, explaining that data is inconclusive if the use of them help people quit smoking.
“One fact out there is that the use of e-cigarettes is increasing smoking in teens, and that’s a troubling trend,” Dr. Ahmed said.
Each year, about 256,000 people are diagnosed with lung cancer and about 186,000 cases result in death.
“The mortality rate is very, very high,” Dr. Ahmed said.
On average, 17 percent of those diagnosed with lung cancer have a five-year survival rate. This compares to 64 percent diagnosed with colorectal cancer, 80 percent with breast cancer and 98 percent with prostate cancer, Dr. Ahmed explained.
“The unfortunate thing is that at the time of diagnosis of lung cancer, the cancer has already metastasized,” he said. “As a pulmonologist, my advice is don’t start smoking and I encourage people to quit and never start. And, it’s never too late to quit.”
Dr. Nadeem Ahmed is a pulmonologist with OSF Saint Anthony’s Health Center specializing in the treatment of lung disorders, including lung cancer. To make an appointment with Dr. Ahmed, call (618) 463-0248.