Media attention doesn’t necessarily reflect what’s most important to you. Consider this comparison, based on 2016 statistics from the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute:
Cancer type Estimated number of new cases Estimated number of deaths
Breast cancer 252,710 40,610
Lung cancer 222,500 155,870 (1)
Lung cancer accounts for just over 9% of deaths from all types of cancers.
Which should worry you more?
Understand that you don’t have to be female to contract breast cancer, and you don’t have to be a smoker to contract lung cancer. Pollution is sufficient.
Early detection is best for both types of cancers. For breast cancer, you look for a lump. The test is easy. If you have a cat or dog, the animal may even paw at the area of the lump. You just need to look.
For lung cancer, the only early sign is a persistent dry cough — something that just doesn’t go away in a week or two, the way the cough associated with a cold should. If the cough brings up blood, that’s a red flag, but the persistent cough by itself should prompt a visit to the doctor — sometimes visits to multiple doctors to get the diagnosis right.
Unfortunately, the dry cough is easy to ignore, and that’s when people get into trouble. By the time other symptoms appear, the cancer may have spread and be much more difficult to treat successfully. The five-year survival rate for Stage IV lung cancer is less than 10%. When one friend of mine finally was diagnosed, he lasted only a few months.
Listen to your body.
- National Cancer Institute, “Common Cancer Types.” https://www.cancer.gov/types/common-cancers
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Statistics for Different Kinds of Cancers.” https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/dcpc/data/types.htm
- Amy Marturana, “The one very subtle symptom of lung cancer you need to know,” Self, 20 May 2017. https://www.aol.com/article/lifestyle/2017/03/20/subtle-symptom-lung-cancer/21903320/
- LungCancer.org, “Symptoms of Lung Cancer.” http://www.lungcancer.org/find_information/publications/163-lung_cancer_101/266-symptoms