November is lung cancer awareness month and it is important to stay informed about this devastating illness. Lung cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer and it makes up 27 percent of all cancer deaths. It is responsible for more deaths than breast, prostate, and colon cancer combined. According to the American Cancer Society, it is estimated that over 230,000 new cases of lung cancer will be diagnosed this year.

There are two primary types of lung cancer: small cell and non-small cell. Non-small cell accounts for 85 percent of all lung cancer cases. Small cell is less common; however, it is extremely aggressive and spreads through the body quickly. While most people are aware that lung cancer can be caused by smoke and secondhand smoke, lung cancer can also be caused by exposure to asbestos.

Asbestos-related lung cancer is on the rise and it kills 10,000 people in the United States every year. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that is composed of fibers. When inhaled, these microscopic fibers get lodged in the lung tissue. Over many years, these fibers can cause lung cells to turn cancerous. Asbestos-related lung cancer is most often caused by occupational exposure. Asbestos was frequently used for insulation, construction materials, and other manufactured products. The most at risk professions include mining, construction, heavy industry, shipbuilding, and firefighting. Asbestos-related lung cancer typically takes between 15 and 35 years to develop after exposure. Therefore, the risk of lung cancer is still prevalent many years after asbestos exposure.

Common signs of lung cancer includes:

  • Persistent coughing
  • Coughing up blood
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Chest discomfort or pain
  • Chronic respiratory infections
  • Fatigue and loss of appetite

Early detection is crucial for combating lung cancer. Symptoms often do not show up until the cancer has grown and spread. Additionally, these symptoms are often mistaken for other illnesses, which can delay the diagnosis. If you smoke or have been exposed to asbestos, regular screenings are the key to early detection. If lung cancer is caught in a very early stage, it can often be treated and cured. If you are at high risk for developing lung cancer, get regular screenings and stay informed: it could save your life.