American Lung Association encourages screenings in November | Illinois

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(The Center Square) – November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month and officials with the American Lung Association are reminding those at high-risk to get screened for the disease.

Felicia Fuller, director of health promotions for the Lung Association for Illinois and Wisconsin, worries the recent pandemic might have caused some Illinois residents to skip appointments.

“Cancer doesn’t stop for COVID,” Fuller said. “We still need to make these appointments, attend these appointments, find out if we are eligible for screening. Do we fit in those parameters?”

Screenings are recommended for those over the age of 50 who have had a 20-year smoking history or those who have quit within the last 15 years.

“We really want people to know that screening is available and it assists in early intervention, early detection, which in the long run drive down mortality rates,” Fuller said. “Lung cancer, in many ways, is sometimes a lesser-known of the cancers which it shouldn’t be, since it is the number one cancer killer of all the cancers.”

A recent report released by the American Lung Association indicates 36% of Americans know that early screening for lung cancer is available and 29% are aware that it is the leading cancer killer of both men and women.

“What makes screening so important is that you find lung cancer early,” Fuller said. “In finding lung cancer early, you can do early intervention. Finding out that you have the disease sooner than later really impacts whether you live or die and how the disease manifests in your body.”

According to the organization, the five-year lung cancer survival rate has increased 33% over the last ten years due to advancements in treatment and research and increased early screenings.

In Illinois, it’s estimated that in 2021, 9,600 people will be diagnosed with lung cancer and nearly 5,000 will die from the disease.

“Lung cancer, and the repercussions thereof, affect the African-American and black and brown communities more,” Fuller said. “We have a huge black and brown population here in Chicago. And many of the numbers are even higher for those populations.”

Around 14 million Americans qualify as high-risk for lung cancer, but officials estimate only about 5-percent of that number have had an early screening.

The recent report also indicates nearly 70% of adults have not spoken to their doctor about their risk for lung cancer. Fuller says it’s unhelpful to only think about it as a “smoker’s disease.”

“Most people who do get lung cancer have in some way put something foreign into their lungs, whether it’s smoke from smoking smoke or whether it was working in conditions that were highly polluted,” Fuller said. “But there are people who get lung cancer that didn’t do any of those things. There is a certain population of people, mainly women, that are getting cancer and we don’t know why.”

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Caleb Alexander

Caleb Alexander

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