By Mark Nosacka, CEO Good Samaritan Medical Center.
Thank you for the opportunity to become a premier partner with Palm Beach Civic Association. As an award-winning 333-bed acute care hospital, we’re making great strides in a lot of fields: oncology, emergency services, women's health, as well as cardiac and vascular care.
No matter how our capabilities expand in the coming years, we want to make sure that we retain our community focus, which is why we place so much value on our expanded relationship with Palm Beach Civic Association. Over the next several months, I hope to provide you with valuable health information, which I hope you will share with your friends and loved ones.
Since November is Lung Cancer Awareness month, I would like to appropriately start my monthly column series with information on Lung Cancer prevention.
Preventing Lung Cancer
We have all heard the adages, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” and “prevention is the best medicine.” When it comes to lung cancer, these sayings hold true. While some risk factors for developing the disease cannot be changed, the leading cause of the disease can be avoided – smoking.
Lung cancer is hard to detect in its early stages and difficult to treat once it has been diagnosed. According to the American Lung Association about half of those with lung cancer will die within one year of diagnosis. The good news is it is one of the most preventable types of cancer.
Approximately 87 percent of lung cancers are connected with smoking. The risk of dying from the disease is 23 times higher for men who smoke and 13 times higher for women who smoke compared to non-smokers. The likelihood of developing lung cancer is related to age when started smoking, number of tobacco products (cigarettes, pipes or cigars) smoked per day, length of time the person smoked and how deeply they inhaled. While their chances of dying from lung cancer are not eliminated, smokers who kick the habit can see a 50 percent drop in that risk 10 years after the last cigarette. Approximately 125,000 people die from smoking-induced lung cancer annually.
Test for Radon
Radon is an invisible, odorless, radioactive gas produced by the decay of naturally occurring uranium in soil and rocks. While radon is found in air everywhere, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that homes be fixed if radon levels exceed 4 pCi/L (pico Curies per Liter). A kit to measure radon levels in the home can be found at most hardware stores. According to the EPA, radon is responsible for more than 20,000 lung cancer deaths every year.
Avoid Secondhand Smoke
People who do not smoke are exposed to lower amounts of the same cancer-causing agents as smokers through secondhand smoke. This smoke comes from a burning cigarette or other tobacco product, or smoke that is exhaled by a smoker. Secondhand smoke is related to an estimated 3,400 lung cancer deaths each year.
Eat Right and Exercise
The antioxidants and flavonoids found in fruits and vegetables may help lower the risk of lung cancer by protecting cell DNA and repairing damaged cells. Physical activity also could lower the risk of lung cancer, while excessive alcohol intake could increase chances of developing the disease.
Asbestos, arsenic, chromium, nickel, tar and soot also can cause lung cancer in people who have never smoked. Other risk factors for developing lung cancer include radiation from medical, work or environmental sources.
Lung cancer can take years to develop. It begins in areas of pre-cancerous changes in the lungs that cannot be seen on an X-ray and do not cause symptoms. Because there is no recommended screening test for the disease, the best way to prevent lung cancer is to stop or never even start smoking. Fortunately, even people who have smoked for many years can benefit from quitting.