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Don’t smoke. And if you do, QUIT

By Michelle Fortune, St. Luke's Hospital CEO

November is National Lung Cancer Awareness Month. In the US, lung cancer kills more than colon, prostate, and breast combined. With the first cigarette you smoke, more than seventy harmful carcinogens fill your lungs and quickly move through your bloodstream to affect most of your internal organs.


• More than 119,000 men and 116,600 women are diagnosed each year.

• Premenopausal women with lung cancer are likely to be diagnosed with advanced disease.

• Nearly 132,000 die annually.

There are two types of lung cancer: non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer (SCLC). Up to 85% of all lung cancer is NSCLC. And adenocarcinoma is the most common type of NSCLC.


Dr. Stephenson, the director of the St. Luke's Cancer & Infusion Center, said that even though smokers make up most lung cancer patients, there are other causes of lung cancer. Some of those risk factors are:

• Age - over the age of 50 and

• Current or former smoker

• Exposure to secondhand smoke

• Exposure to radon

• Prolonged exposure to heavy air pollution


Most lung cancers have no symptoms until the disease is well advanced. However, when early signs of lung cancer do appear, those symptoms may include:

A new persistent cough, or a change in an existing chronic cough

Hoarseness or wheezing

Pain in the chest, shoulders

Sudden onset of shortness of breath

Loss of appetite

Weakness and fatigue

Persistent lung infections


The symptoms of advanced lung cancer may also include:

• Difficulty swallowing

• Changes in the shape of your fingers and nails

• Retention of fluid

• Bone pain and fractures

• Nausea and increased abdominal circumference

• Headache, blurred vision, speech difficulty


Diagnostic procedures ordered by Dr. Stephenson may include:

• Biopsy

• Bone scan

• CT scan


• PET scan

• Pulmonary function test


Dr. Stephenson offers the most leading-edge treatment found anywhere in the world. You no longer need to travel out of the region to receive premier and contemporary cancer care. His therapy options include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapy, or combination.

Dr. Stephenson says that "cancer is a journey for both the patient and the family. Oncology is a very relational journey. Building a long-term trust is essential and loving them through their disease helps make them whole."

Note: People who have an increased risk of lung cancer should consider annual lung cancer screening. And if you're a smoker, give thought to QuitlineNC. Call 1 (800) QUIT-NOW, or visit

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