Wear The Gown: What you need to know about the risks and symptoms of lung cancer

Non-smokers can get it too.

SAN ANTONIO — Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths. We all know that cigarette smoking is a big factor in whether or not you contract lung cancer, but genetic dispositions play a big role too.

Dr. Josephine Taverna, an Assistant Professor with UT Health San Antonio told us, “In fact, in Texas, 50% of our population are Hispanic. And what we see and what I see in my clinic are a lot of Hispanic women, nonsmokers who actually have developed lung cancer.”  

The CDC says in the U.S. cigarette smoking is linked to about 80 percent to 90 percent of all lung cancer deaths. And with tobacco smoke containing a toxic mix of more than 7,000 chemicals, with at least 70 known to cause cancer, people who smoke cigarettes are 15 to 30 times more likely to get lung cancer than people who do not smoke. 

Dr. Taverna added, “Sometimes it just takes a particular mutation to occur, and so you’re putting yourself at risk when you do smoke because the lung tissue changes.”  

Some of the symptoms of lung cancer include a cough that gets worse or does not go away, chest pain, shortness of breath and wheezing, coughing up blood, and sudden weight loss or lack of energy. 

Dr. Taverna added, “Or let’s say they were diagnosed with a pneumonia or a COVID related infection, and they saw nodule on their CT scan. It’s important to follow up with a primary care doctor or a lung specialist, a pulmonologist, to make sure those lung nodules are are evaluated closely over time and make sure there’s no growth.” 

And young people are susceptible to cancer too, but sometimes they wait too long to get screened.

Dr. Taverna told us, “The issue is, a lot of times our younger patients, they come when it’s a little later. And because they’re so physically fit and active, the cancer has an opportunity to spread without them noticing.”  

Dr. Taverna also says e-cigarettes and vaping is really not a safe alternative, and that anything you may inhale could have some type of carcinogen. 

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