Lung Cancer and Women

Cigarette smokers and non-smokers are at risk.

“One in 17 women in the United States will develop lung cancer. That means you or someone around you will get lung cancer,” said Sears. “The way to end lung cancer is to find it early. The earlier the better! That’s why screening is so important.”

Between 80 and 90 percent of lung cancer cases stem from cigarette smoking, and Indiana ranks high for females who smoke cigarettes. According to American Health Rankings, 18 percent of Indiana women ages 18-44 smoked cigarettes almost daily in 2020, notably higher than the national 12 percent. Though smoking cigarettes has declined nationally, writes that women aren’t quitting as quickly as men: “Smoking rates among women have dropped by about 59 percent since 1965, compared with a 66-percent drop among men.”

The slow decline in cigarette smoking coincides with another statistic: a slower decline in lung cancer diagnoses for women than men. (Lung Cancer Research Foundation) If the trend continues, warn researchers Christina R. MacRosty and M. Patricia Rivera in Lung Cancer in Women: A Modern Epidemic, “Lung cancer mortality rates in women are estimated to exceed those in men by 2045.”


Patients who quit smoking cigarettes before starting cancer treatment have a 45-percent higher survival rate than those who continue to smoke. Watch It's Never Too Late to Quit Using Tobacco, Even After a Cancer Diagnosis.

Don’t wait. Ask your doctor.

Lung cancer screening is painless. After answering a few questions, completing the low-dose CT scan takes less than three minutes.

“You do what’s called a shared decision-making visit with your doctor first that includes talking about your habits and your health. You make the decision whether to get a scan together,” said Sears. “It is a low-dose CT scan, so it’s lower radiation than a normal CT scan. You can schedule it for whenever it’s convenient for you. The scan is then read by a radiologist who is experienced in looking for signs of lung cancer.”

Annual lung cancer screenings are recommended for women (and men) ages 50 to 80 with a smoking history of at least 20 pack-years and who smoke now or quit within the past 15 years.

A pack-year describes how many cigarettes a person has smoked in their lifetime at 20 cigarettes per pack. For example, smoking an average of one pack per day for 20 years equals 20 pack-years, two packs per day for 20 years equals 40 pack-years, a half pack per day for 20 years equals 10 pack years. Calculator

Knowledge is power. Take control.

Both Drs. Hanna and Sears believe that the more women know about the life-saving benefits of lung cancer screening, the more women will advocate to get them.

“Women in general are more participatory in their own health and the health of others. They’re more likely to be advocates and fundraisers, get their screenings and engage in health prevention, be trusting and engage in the health system than men,” Nasser said.

Lung cancer screening could save your life or significantly improve your quality of life after a diagnosis. Talk to your doctor about lung cancer screening today. If you smoke cigarettes and can consider quitting, help is out there. If you have stopped smoking cigarettes, you may still qualify for lung cancer screening. And if you are ever diagnosed with lung cancer, know that you don’t deserve it. Anyone with lungs can get lung cancer.

About the Author

Cindy Dashnaw Jackson finds and tells nonprofit stories that inspire audiences to share, show up and support. She honed her ability to craft a message that fits an audience during 20 years in nonprofit PR and communications. Now a freelancer and founder of Cause Communications LLC, she's a copywriter and storyteller for nonprofits across the United States. And she earned her degree at IUPUI.


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