Women and Lung Cancer
It's often thought of as a man's disease - one that only smokers get. But women and nonsmokers alike are getting lung cancer - in increasingly ...

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Women and Lung Cancer

Lung cancer takes the lives of more women than breast, ovarian and uterine cancers combined. Women respond better to treatment for lung cancer and live longer than men who are in the same stage of the disease, but the numbers are still grim.

According to the American Cancer Society, more than 70,000 American women die of lung cancer in a typical year. And more than 103,000 women are usually diagnosed with the disease annually.

Lung cancer facts:

  • Lung cancer is the second most common cancer among white, black, Native American and Alaskan women. It is the third most common cancer among Asian and Hispanic women.
  • Studies show that two thirds of nonsmokers with lung cancer are women.
  • One in 16 women gets lung cancer.
  • Black women are more at risk than white women.
  • Eighty-five percent of those with lung cancer die from it.
  • Few reliable screening tests are presently available for early detection.
  • New treatments have doubled the cure rate over the last 30 years.

Women are affected differently
Lung cancer kills more people than any other cancer. It is most common among men, but women are catching up. Lung cancer rates among men have become lower over the years, but the rates among women have grown. The reason? More women began smoking.

Men and women appear to have different risk factors for lung cancer. Women also seem to get different types of lung cancer. They often develop adenocarcinoma, the most common type. This type of cancer is less related to smoking and is most often seen in young people, women and people who have never smoked.

Men are more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma, which has more symptoms. These symptoms make it easier to detect.

Causes of lung cancer
Smoking causes 87 percent of lung cancer deaths. Switching to light or low-tar cigarettes doesn't make a difference. Secondhand smoke kills about 3,000 nonsmokers each year. Being exposed to radon, asbestos, air pollution and various chemicals can also cause lung cancer.

Symptoms
Lung cancer is most treatable when detected early. Talk to your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Chronic cough
  • Hoarseness
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Blood in the sputum
  • Recurring pneumonia and bronchitis
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue

Prevention tips

  • If you smoke, talk to your doctor. He or she can tell you about programs and treatment that can help you quit.
  • Have your home inspected to see if you are being exposed to radon or asbestos.
  • Avoid secondhand smoke. If there are smokers in your home, make them smoke outside the house. Or better yet, ask them to quit.
  • Avoid any needless exposure to x-rays.
By Diane Griffith, Staff Writer
Created on 04/10/2006
Updated on 08/24/2009
Sources:
  • National Lung Cancer Partnership. Lung cancer in American women: facts.
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Lung cancer.
  • American Cancer Society. Cancer facts for women.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Lung cancer initiatives.
Copyright © OptumHealth.
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