June 2022

Women, Don’t Let Lung Cancer Fly Under the Radar

When you think of women and cancer, breast cancer probably jumps to mind. But the cancer that is responsible for the most deaths among women is actually lung cancer.

Among men, lung cancer rates are on the decline. Unfortunately, the reverse is true for women. Here are answers to some common questions about lung cancer.

Q: If I’ve never smoked, do I need to be concerned with lung cancer?

A: While smoking is the biggest risk factor for lung cancer, up to 20% of cases occur in people who have never smoked a day in their lives. And even if you’re a nonsmoker, breathing in secondhand smoke is a real danger. Every year, about 7,000 U.S. adults die of lung cancer because of it.

Q: At what age is lung cancer usually diagnosed?

A: The disease strikes most often at 65 and older, but younger adults can have it too. The average age of diagnosis is about 70 years old. For 2022, it’s estimated that more than 118,000 women will learn they have lung cancer.

Q: If I’m diagnosed with lung cancer, what is the prognosis?

A: Unfortunately, fewer than 50% of people with lung cancer live longer than one year after diagnosis. One reason the lung cancer survival rate is so low is because you can have it for a long time without even knowing it. However, when lung cancer is caught before it spreads throughout the body, the 5-year relative survival rate is 61%.   

Q: Is a screening test available to find the disease early?

A: A low-dose computed tomography scan may detect lung cancer early and reduce your risk of dying from the disease. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends this screening for adults ages 50 to 80 who fit the following criteria:

  • Have a 20 pack-year smoking history and

  • Currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years

Ask your healthcare provider whether a screening test is right for you.

Q: What are the treatment options for lung cancer?

A: Currently in the U.S., about 541,000 people are lung cancer survivors. Every day, healthcare providers help people fight this disease. Common treatment options include:

  • Surgery to remove cancer tissue

  • Chemotherapy to help shrink or kill tumors

  • Radiation therapy to kill the cancer with high-energy rays

  • Medicine that targets cancer cells and blocks their growth and spread

Your healthcare team may also help you enroll in a clinical trial, where you can get access to cutting-edge new treatments for the disease.


Online Medical Reviewer: Brian McDonough, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Renee Watson, RN, MSN
Date Last Reviewed: 5/1/2022
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