DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Taking the lead against lung cancer!

November is National Lung Cancer Awareness Month.

According to the American Cancer Society, Lung and bronchus cancer is responsible for the most deaths with 130,180 people expected to die from this disease in 2022.

“To put that in perspective, each year in the United States, lung cancer kills more women than breast cancer and colon cancer combined. And for men, it kills more men than prostate cancer and colon cancer combined,” said Dr. Betty Tong, Associate Professor of Surgery at Duke University Medical Center.

Tong says there are a number of risk factors for lung cancer, including smoking and a family history.

“It’s important to remember that about one out of five cases of lung cancer happen to people who don’t smoke cigarettes and don’t have a history of cigarette smoking exposure,” Tong said. “That being said, people with a history of smoking cigarettes are most at risk for lung cancer and we have a screening method for people who do have a history of smoking cigarettes.”

Though, a recent American Lung Association survey shows nearly 70-percent of Americans are not familiar with the availability of lung-cancer screenings for early detection.

Guidelines now recommend screening for people between ages 50 and 80 with a 20-pack-year smoking history. This is the number of packs of cigarettes per day multiplied by the number of years smoked. For example, someone who smoked two packs a day for 10 years [2 x 10 = 20] has 20 pack-years of smoking, as does a person who smoked 1 pack a day for 20 years [1 x 20 = 20]. 

Current smokers, or ones who have quit within the last 15 years, are also encouraged to screen.

“It’s a CAT scan so it’s an open tube,” Tong said. “The screening scan literally takes about five minutes to do and doesn’t require any needles or IVs, it’s pretty painless.”

The American Lung Association created a lung-cancer risk quiz to help determine eligibility.



Tong says the main goal is long-term survival and that’s why early detection is key.

“We know, in general, when we diagnose and treat cancers in their earliest stages, that patients have a far better chance at surviving over the long term than when they’re diagnosed and treated at an advanced stage.”

The number one thing a person can do to decrease the risk of lung cancer, Tong says, is to stop smoking and there are programs to help.