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December 9, 2020 - Revised: 07.20.22

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month

According to the American Cancer Society (Key Statistics for Lung Cancer, 2022):

  • Lung cancer is the leading cause of all cancer deaths.  Nearly 25% of all cancer deaths can be attributed to lung cancer.
  • An estimated 236,740 new cases of lung cancer were diagnosed and an estimated 130,180 deaths were linked to lung cancer.
  • One in every 15 men and one in every 17 women are at risk for developing lung cancer in their lifetime. This risk is higher among those who smoke.
  • Lung cancer tends to occur in older individuals, with most cases occurring in those age 65 or older.

November has been designated as National Lung Cancer Awareness Month. It is dedicated to educating the public on the importance of prevention, screening, early detection, and treatment of lung cancer. Smoking can be attributed to around 90% of all lung cancer deaths (Tobacco Use | CDC, 2021). The American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout (held annually on the third Thursday of November) can assist with educating the public on the effects of smoking as well as help smokers with tobacco cessation. Preventive screening and early treatment can assist with decreasing the incidence of lung cancer. Even though the diagnosis of lung cancer can be detrimental, with early treatment and follow-up care, some earlier-stage lung cancers can be cured.

Types of Lung Cancer
Lung cancer occurs when malignant cells develop in the lung(s). These cells begin to proliferate and eventually can spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body. This is classified as primary cancer. Cancers from other parts of the body may also metastasize or spread to the lungs. This is classified as secondary cancer. There are two main types of lung cancer, small cell (SCLC) and non-small cell cancer (NSCLC).

Signs and Symptoms
Signs and symptoms of lung cancer can vary depending on the location of the cancer tumor. Those with cancer in the lung will present with signs and symptoms related to the lung whereas those with cancer that has spread will present signs and symptoms related to the area where the cancer has metastasized. However, many people that have lung cancer are asymptomatic or present few symptoms until the cancer is advanced.

Risk factors
It is important to note that not all people diagnosed with lung cancer will have any risk factors nor does the presence of risk factors necessarily mean that the person will be diagnosed with lung cancer.

Nonmodifiable risk factors include personal history of lung cancer, family history, previous radiation therapy to the chest, and exposure to air pollution. Modifiable risk factors include tobacco smoking, exposure to secondhand smoke, exposure to radon, asbestos and other carcinogenic substances, and dietary issues.

Screening and Diagnosis
The Medicare-covered preventive screening test used for lung cancer is the annual screening for lung cancer with low dose computed tomography (along with lung cancer screening counseling).
Further diagnostic testing may also be completed to evaluate any areas of concerns prior to diagnosing cancer, to make a diagnosis of lung cancer, to determine the extent of metastasis, to determine effectiveness of the treatment administered, and to evaluate for possible recurrence of the cancer following treatment. If lung cancer is diagnosed, staging is used to determine the amount of cancer present, if it has metastasized, and the extent of metastasis.

As with other types of cancer, the stage of the lung cancer determines the treatment that will be given. Treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, radiofrequency ablation, and palliative treatments.

There are several steps you can take to assist your patients with keeping their lungs healthy and preventing lung cancer.

  • Encourage your patients to schedule annual wellness visits and screenings.
  • Educate your patients on the effects of smoking. Medicare covers counseling to prevent tobacco use for those patients that qualify. Discuss this Medicare covered benefit with your patients and encourage them to enroll.
  • If your patients are smokers or have a history of smoking, Medicare covers Lung Cancer Screening Counseling and Annual Screening for Lung Cancer with Low Dose Computed Tomography for those patients that qualify. Discuss this Medicare covered benefit with your patients and encourage them to enroll.
  • If your patients are smokers, encourage them to participate in the Great American SmokeoutExternal Website.
  • Discuss the harmful effects of secondhand smoking and encourage your patients to avoid exposure to secondhand smoke when possible.
  • Educate your patients about the harmful effects of radon exposure and encourage to get their homes tested and treated.
  • Advise your patients to avoid or limit their exposure to carcinogenic chemicals at the workplace and to use personal protective equipment to prevent exposure when applicable.
  • Discuss possible irritants to the lungs such as allergens and how to avoid or minimize exposure to these allergens.
  • Educate your patients about eating a well-balanced diet.
    • Discuss the importance of including plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  • Encourage your patients to get their flu shot annually.
  • Encourage your patients to get their pneumococcal shot.
  • Discuss risks and benefits of all vitamins and supplements taken.
  • Discuss risks and benefits of complementary and alternative medicine as treatment modalities for lung cancer.

To learn more about Medicare-covered services, visit CMS Preventive Services External Website:

For More Information:  and resources

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