Cancer in Illinois - Resources Cancer Research Funding

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How common is lung cancer in women?

Lung cancer is the largest single cause of cancer deaths in Illinois women. For years, men were at higher risk for lung cancer because of their higher smoking rates. However, with the rising number of women who smoke, lung cancer surpassed breast cancer as the leading cause of cancer deaths among women. From 1975 to 1995, the number of Illinois women who died of lung cancer increased almost 180 percent compared to an increase of about 22 percent in Illinois men.

If I do not smoke, can I develop lung cancer?

Smoking causes 87 percent of lung cancer, but what about the other 13 percent? There is evidence that exposure to tobacco smoke in the home, usually from a smoking spouse, may increase the risk of lung cancer in non-smoking women. Nearly nine out of 10 non-smoking Americans are exposed to "second-hand" smoke, as measured by levels of nicotine in their blood. The best scientific studies show that restrictions on second hand smoke reduce the risk of death and injury to non-smokers, including the hundreds of thousands of children with asthma and other respiratory illness. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has classified second-hand smoke as a group A carcinogen (known to cause cancer in humans). More studies are needed to determine how much exposure might be harmful in any of these settings.

You can find out more about lung cancer by contacting the following organizations:

National Cancer Institutes Cancer Information Service

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

What is the current treatment for lung cancer?

The best way to avoid death from lung cancer is never to smoke, or to stop smoking. Once lung cancer is diagnosed, there are several treatment options, including radiation, various chemotherapies and surgery. Survival rates have improved for non-small cell lung cancer because of advances in combination radiation/chemotherapy treatment. However, small cell lung cancer is still very difficult to treat. Small cell is the most aggressive of lung cancers, and many patients have advanced disease at the time of diagnosis. Small cell lung cancer is responsive to both chemotherapy and radiation, yet nearly all these patients eventually relapse and need additional treatment.

There is a clear need for more effective treatments for lung cancer. New advances in research have recently led to new drugs that can protect normal cells from being destroyed from chemotherapy.

Early detection remains the key to successful therapy. If you have a history of chronic coughing, coughing up blood, chest pain or fever, you should be evaluated by your physician as soon as possible.

Lung cancer is not the only smoking- related cause of death in women. The World Health Organization states that at least 25 percent of women smokers will die of smoking-related disease such as cardiovascular disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).