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Monday, October 28, 2013 - Non-smoking women still at higher risk for lung cancer

Non-smoking women still at higher risk for lung cancer


By Nirav N. Shah, D.O.


It’s common knowledge that smoking causes lung cancer. But what many Americans don’t know is that one in five women who will contract lung cancer this year in this country have never smoked a tobacco product in their lives. More than half of non-smokers with lung cancer are women. In 2013, more than 110,000 non-smoking women in the U.S. will receive a lung cancer diagnosis.

Researchers discovered specific genetic abnormalities and hormonal factors can cause lung cancer in non-smoking women. Additional factors have also been identified as key risk factors for women and men:

  • Secondhand smoke exposure as a child or adult
  • Family history of non-smoker lung cancer
  • Exposure to radon or asbestos
  • Living in an area with a high level of air pollution
  • Sensitivity to absorption of adverse airborne chemicals
  • Over age 55

More than 200,000 Americans will be diagnosed with lung cancer and many will not survive the battle with this disease. The reason is due to the fact that this kind of cancer is often asymptomatic and not discovered until it has already reached an advanced stage. However, several recent studies, including a new report published this year by the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force, an independent volunteer panel of experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine, recommends that patients at risk for lung cancer undergo annual, low-dose CT (computed tomography) scans.

A CT scan, a series of X-rays taken from different angles to create cross-sectional images of the bones and soft tissues, can possibly detect early abnormalities which may be related to lung cancer. Although the CT scan is not diagnostic of lung cancer, it is an important first step in detecting it.

Regardless of your status as a smoker or non-smoker, if you experience shortness of breath, an ongoing chronic cough that doesn't go away, wheezing, coughing up blood, or regular chest discomfort or pressure, see your doctor right away. If you are at risk for lung cancer, talk with your doctor about annual CT scans of your chest wall and lungs. As with any kind of cancer or chronic disease, earlier diagnosis significantly improves the ability to successfully treat the condition.

The Comprehensive Lung Care Program at CentraState Medical Center, in conjunction with Freehold Radiology Group, is now offering free, low-dose CT screenings, using its state-of-the-art, 64-slice CT scan, to individuals considered at high risk for developing lung cancer. CT scans have an advantage over traditional chest X-rays for lung cancer screening because they can detect cancer at its earliest stages. For more information and to determine your eligibility for the scans, call (732) 637-6365 or visit us online at centrastate.com.

The Lung Program specializes in the most advanced lung cancer treatment and technology available. ProCure Treatment Centers, Inc., with CentraState Healthcare System and Princeton Radiation Oncology, offers the first and only proton therapy center in the New Jersey/New York region which uses precise laser-targeted radiation to attack cancerous tumors, including the lung. CentraState’s Cancer Program is accredited by the American College of Surgeons' Commission on Cancer as a “Community Hospital Comprehensive Cancer Program.” For more information, visit centrastatecancercenter.com or call (855) 411-CANCER.

       Dr. Nirav N. Shah is a board-certified internal, pulmonary and critical care physician on staff at CentraState Medical Center where he also serves as director of the Critical Care Unit. He can be reached at Monmouth Ocean Pulmonary Medicine by calling (732) 577-0600.