By Ginny Kincaid, MPH

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. During this observance, we raise awareness about what lung cancer is, how you get cancer, how to lower your risk, and how important screening is for those at high risk. It’s also a time to acknowledge and support survivors.

Lung cancer happens when cells in the body grow out of control, starting in the lungs. Lung cancer may spread to lymph nodes or other parts of the body. Learn about the different types of lung cancer.

Each year, more than 200,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with lung cancer and more than 150,000 people die from this disease. Lung cancer is one of the most common cancers among men and women in the U.S. and is the leading cause of cancer death. It can feel overwhelming to read statistics about different types of cancer, and lung cancer is no exception.

However, not every statistic about lung cancer is bad news—after increasing for decades, lung cancer death rates are decreasing nationally because the percentage of people who are smoking cigarettes has decreased over time. From 2001 to 2016, lung cancer death rates for the total population have declined. This fact gives us real hope for a future with less lung cancer.

There are actions you can take to lower your risk of lung cancer. The most important thing you can do to prevent lung cancer is to not smoke or to quit smoking if you do. You can also avoid secondhand smoke and get your home tested for radon to lower your risk of getting lung cancer.

There is further hope for a future with less lung cancer because we know that early detection works. If lung cancer is found early, there are more options for treatment. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends yearly lung cancer screening with a low-dose CT scan for people who—

  • Have a history of heavy smoking, and

  • Smoke now or have quit within the past 15 years, and

  • Are between 55 and 80 years old.

Heavy smoking means a smoking history of 30 pack years or more. A pack year is smoking an average of one pack of cigarettes per day for one year. Talk with your doctor to see if screening is right for you.

This November, as we raise awareness about lung cancer, we also proclaim the progress that has been made that gives us hope for the future.

This article was originally published on November 6, 2018, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is republished with permission.