Lung Cancer FAQs

Lung Cancer Questions & Answers

Each year, more people die from lung cancer alone than colon, breast, prostate and liver cancer combined. Below are answers to several frequently asked questions about lung cancer, the associated risk factors, the importance of annual lung cancer screenings as well as the different treatment options.

How many people die from lung cancer each year?

The American Cancer Society estimates that lung cancer makes up approximately 1/4 of all cancer-related deaths.

What is the main cause of lung cancer deaths?

Lung cancer usually affects current and former smokers in the greatest numbers. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that cigarette smoking accounts for approximately 80% - 90% of all lung cancer-related deaths. The more years you’ve smoked and the more packs of cigarettes you’ve smoked, the greater your risk of developing lung cancer at some point in your lifetime.

Can non-smokers develop lung cancer?

Yes. Even if you are a non-smoker, you're still at risk of developing lung cancer within your lifetime. In fact, nearly 20% of people who die from lung cancer have never smoked or used any other form of tobacco. Among the shortlist of cancer-causing substances other than tobacco include:

  • diesel exhaust
  • air pollution
  • radon gas
  • asbestos

What if my Mercy oncologist tells me that my lung cancer is inoperable?

If your Mercy oncologist tells you this, it doesn't mean that your cancer is incurable. It could be due to the location of the tumor or your overall health as a patient. Non-surgical treatment options for lung cancer include chemotherapy and radiotherapy for lung cancer. 

Does asthma increase my risk of developing lung cancer?

The answer to this question is complicated. In fact, the National Institutes of Health conducted a study that said the link between cancer and asthma is inconclusive at best. However, one thing is clear from the study: if you are a smoker who also has asthma, you should quit smoking immediately. 

How should I decide on my treatment plan for lung cancer?

Your Mercy oncologist and cancer team will help you decide what lung cancer treatment option is right for you. There may be surgical or non-surgical procedures to consider, but expect to be well-informed and taken care of every step of the way. 

What treatment types are the best for lung cancer?

Unfortunately, there’s no easy or direct answer to this question. A lung cancer diagnosis is different for each person and treatment depends on which stage of development it is diagnosed, among other factors. Which lung cancer treatment you choose will depend heavily on several factors, including:

  • how far along your cancer has progressed
  • the type of lung cancer you have
  • your overall health

Should I get a second opinion for lung cancer?

A second opinion can provide very valuable information once you receive a lung cancer diagnosis. Many people feel reluctant to seek a second opinion due to hopes of beginning their treatment immediately. However, most medical professionals expect patients diagnosed with lung cancer to get a second opinion as soon as possible.

Are there any downsides to a low-dose CT screening?

There are always side effects and downsides with any screening or diagnostic procedure. A low-dose CT screening for lung cancer will have a side effect of radiation; however, it is a lower dose than a standard CT scan. Secondly, the screening may prompt further tests, such as a PET scan, biopsy or surgery. 

Lung Cancer Resources