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Your Guide to Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

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This content is created or selected by the Healthgrades editorial team and is funded by an advertising sponsor. The content is subject to the Healthgrades medical review process for accuracy, balance and objectivity. The content is not edited or otherwise influenced by the advertisers appearing on this page except with the possible suggestion of the broad topic area. For more information, read the Healthgrades advertising policy.

9 Myths About Lung Cancer

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Jennifer Larson on April 7, 2021
  • senior woman sitting at table thinking and writing
    Sort through the myths about lung cancer to find the facts.
    Myths and misconceptions about lung cancer abide. You’ve probably heard more than a few yourself, so you have to be vigilant about sussing out what you need to know about lung cancer. Lung cancer treatment and diagnosis have come a long way in recent years, so take some time to brush up on the facts.
  • Women-heart-disease-young-myths
    Myth #1: Young people don’t get lung cancer.
    Under 40? Think you can’t get lung cancer? Guess again. It’s true you’re far more likely to develop lung cancer when you’re a senior citizen. The age group with the highest number of cancer diagnoses in a typical year is the group of people between the ages of 65 and 74, per the National Cancer Institute. But younger people can and do develop lung cancer, too. It’s rarer, of course, but it does happen.
  • white or pearl colored ribbon raising lung cancer awareness
    Myth #2: Breast cancer kills more people than lung cancer.
    Breast cancer gets a lot more press than most other kinds of cancer, so it’s understandable that many people might assume it kills more people each year. Indeed, breast cancer tends to affect more people on an annual basis than lung cancer, but more people die from lung cancer. The American Cancer Society estimates more than 142,000 people will die of lung cancer in 2019, compared to almost 42,000 women who will die from breast cancer.
  • Caucasian man smoking outside next to female Caucasian coworker
    Myth #3: You can’t develop lung cancer unless you smoke.
    The myth that only smokers develop lung cancer persist, but it’s just not true. What is true: smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer. Smoking is the main cause of 80 to 90% of lung cancer deaths. But that leaves a significant minority of cases that can’t be traced back to smoking. Some people develop lung cancer after being exposed to radon gas, and some people have genetic mutations that make them more likely to develop lung cancer. And more than 7,000 people die each year from lung cancer that’s attributed to secondhand smoke.
  • Senior woman sitting on hospital bed
    Myth #4: Women don’t have to worry as much about getting lung cancer.
    It’s true that men are more likely to develop lung cancer than women. But women can’t be complacent. The American Cancer Society predicts that about 111,710 new cases of lung care will be diagnosed in women in 2019, just a few thousand less than the 116,440 cases expected to be diagnosed in men.
  • Man breaking cigarette in half
    Myth #5: Once you get lung cancer, quitting smoking won’t help.
    Smoking cessation always helps. It’s always a good idea to quit smoking. You might think, “But I already have lung cancer, so what’s the point?” You may still improve your chances of survival if you quit smoking. In fact, research into early stage small cell lung cancer has shown better outcomes and survival rates among people who quit smoking.
  • cancer-patient-nuzzling-child
    Myth #6: There’s no cure for lung cancer.
    Researchers have made great strides in lung cancer treatment in recent years. And early detection and treatment is key. It’s true that stage 4 cancer, which is the most advanced stage of lung cancer, does not have a cure. But you can successfully recover from a less advanced stage of cancer. The bottom line is the earlier your lung cancer is diagnosed, the better your chances for being cured.
  • Middle aged African American woman laughing with friend in backyard
    Myth #7: A lung cancer diagnosis is a death sentence.
    You can live for many years after undergoing successful lung cancer treatment. The five-year survival rate for people with stage 1 cancer that’s localized to just the lungs is about 56%. The five-year survival rate refers to the percentage of people treated for lung cancer who are still living five years after diagnosis. More advanced stages of cancer tend to have lower five-year survival rates, however. And some people live with cancer that never really goes away, so they have to get regular treatments. That’s why early diagnosis and prompt treatment are so important.
  • doctor listening with stethoscope to male patient breathing
    Myth #8: There are no obvious symptoms of lung cancer.
    Many people live in fear of a lung cancer diagnosis that seemingly comes out of nowhere. But if you smoke, you probably know you’re already at risk. So, you can watch for symptoms that could be warning signs. Common signs include a lingering cough, chest pain that flares up when you cough or breathe deeply, shortness of breath, wheezing, and coughing up blood. If you keep coming down with infections like bronchitis, it might also be worth getting checked out. And even if you don’t smoke, it’s important to watch for those symptoms and not brush them off if they develop.
  • diagnostic-test-ct-scanner
    Myth #9: There’s no way to screen for lung cancer.
    It’s not routinely offered, but a low-dose CT (computed tomography) scan, or LDCT, can be a useful tool for detecting lung cancer. A radiologist will examine the picture of your lungs created by an X-ray machine using low doses of radiation to see if there are any signs of lung cancer. Right now, the screening is only recommended for people at high risk without any symptoms. Specifically, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends a yearly screening with LDCT for people between the ages of 50 and 80 with a 20 pack-year history who currently smoke or quit smoking within the past 15 years.
Lung Cancer Myths | Lung Cancer

About The Author

Jennifer Larson has more than 15 years of professional writing experience with a specialization in healthcare. She has a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland and memberships in the Association of Health Care Journalists, the Society of Professional Journalists, and the Education Writers Association.
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  2. Eldridge L. Top 10 Common Misconceptions About Lung Cancer. Oncology Nursing News. March 11, 2015.
  3. Key Statistics for Lung Cancer. American Cancer Society.
  4. Mapes D. 7 misconceptions about lung cancer. Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Fred Hutch News Service. Nov. 15, 2018.
  5. Myths and Misconceptions about Lung Cancer.
  6. Parsons A. Influence of smoking cessation after diagnosis of early stage lung cancer on prognosis: systematic review of observational studies with meta-analysis. : BMJ 2010;340:b5569.
  7. Rivera MP. Lung Cancer in Women: The Differences in Epidemiology, Biology and Treatment Outcomes. Expert Rev Resp Med. 2009;3(6):627-634.
  8. Treatment Choices for Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer, by Stage. American Cancer Society.
  9. Who Should Be Screened for Lung Cancer? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  10. US Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for Lung Cancer: US Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement. JAMA. 2021;325(10):962–970. doi:10.1001/jama.2021.1117
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Last Review Date: 2021 Apr 7
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