A Quick Guide on Lung Cancer: Screenings and Risk Factors

Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in the United States, though it is not often detected early. It usually has no noticeable symptoms until it is in an advanced stage, when a tumor grows so large that it starts pressing against other organs, causing pain and discomfort.

However, screenings offer hope for early detection, and avoiding risks can help prevent lung cancer from developing. Know what to expect from lung cancer screenings and what risks to avoid.

Lung Cancer Screenings

  • Why screen for lung cancer? More people die of lung cancer than any other cancer each year. A recent large study has shown that for certain individuals with a history of smoking, early screening helped reduce mortality rates. (© One Photo | Dreamstime.com)
  • Who should be screened for lung cancer? Individuals age 55-77 who are current smokers or have smoked the equivalent of 30 pack years (number of packs a day smoked x number of years smoked) are screening candidates. If you are at risk, please ask your doctor about getting screened. (© Simone Van Den Berg | Dreamstime.com)
  • Do I need a doctor’s order? A referral from your primary care physician or pulmonologist is needed. (© Thodonal | Dreamstime.com)
  • Does insurance cover the cost of screening? Most insurance plans cover the cost and, depending on your plan, there may be a co-pay. Medicare does cover the cost. (© Olivier Le Moal | Dreamstime.com)
  • How safe is screening? Johns Hopkins Medical Imaging in Columbia uses an ultra low-dose CT scanner which reduces CT radiation exposure up to 60 percent, compared to traditional scanners. [Credit: [Jupiterimages]/Thinkstock]

Lung Cancer Risks

  • Smoking
    Cigarette smoking is the most significant risk factor in developing lung cancer. Nearly 90 percent of lung cancer diagnoses can be prevented if cigarette smoking were eliminated.
  • Family history
    People who have a family member diagnosed with lung cancer are twice as likely to develop cancer as someone without a family history of lung cancer. That rate increases for those who have two or more first-degree relatives (brothers, sisters, parents or children) who developed lung cancer.
  • Secondhand smoke
    While the same cancer-causing agents are inhaled in smaller amounts, secondhand smoke does increase the risk of developing lung cancer.
  • Occupational exposure
    Exposure to asbestos, once common among specific construction and manufacturing jobs and firefighters, is known to cause mesothelioma. Other toxins, such as arsenic, nickel and chromium, as well as tar and soot, can also increase the risk of developing lung cancer, especially among those who smoke.
  • Environmental exposure
    Chemicals and other cancer causing substances may exist in homes and offices, increasing the risk of people who live and work in them. The most common culprit is radon. Thirty percent of deaths caused by lung cancer have been linked to radon exposure in people who have never smoked with the percentage increasing for those who have smoked.
  • Vitamin supplements
    Beta carotene was once believed to have aided in reducing the risk of lung cancer among heavy smokers. Substantial evidence now shows beta carotene supplements increases the risk of lung cancer, especially among people who smoke one or more packs a day.

Read more about lung cancer, screenings, smoking and e-cigarettes.

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Hospital VP Rides to Conquer Cancer in Honor of ‘Grand’ Grandfather

I have decided to participate in the Ride to Conquer Cancer to honor my grandfather, Angelo Incorvia Jr. who fought lung cancer for several years.

My grandfather was part of the highly respected Greatest Generation. Similar to many of his generation, he honorably served his country in World War II. He was so compelled to enlist that he found a creative way to circumvent the minimum age requirement and hearing screening to gain acceptance in the Army and ultimately served for three years in Europe.

I consider myself extremely lucky to have had such a close relationship with my grandfather. He was an integral part of my childhood and as a young adult I considered him my best friend. My fondest memories were Sunday dinners at his home, which consisted of an over-the-top Italian meal cooked by my grandmother and sitting on his front porch listening to his war stories. My grandfather was extremely modest, generous, had a great sense of humor and always seemed to know when someone needed a little extra love and attention. He had a profound impact on my personal development and I always strive to lead my life in a way that would make him proud.

ride to conquer cancer

Ryan Brown, VP of Operations at Howard County General Hospital, is biking in the 150-mile Ride to Conquer Cancer next month in honor of his grandfather Angelo Incorvia, Jr. (above), a World War II veteran and integral part of Ryan’s childhood. Click here to support Ryan and Ride to Conquer Cancer, which benefits Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center and Howard County General Hospital.

Family was most important to my grandfather, which was evident by the fact that his home was always full with children, siblings, cousins and friends. It was a meeting place for all and so many joyous holidays were celebrated under his roof. Later in life my grandfather grew quite fond of gardening and, in particular, his coveted tomatoes. Every time I enjoy a tomato I smile and think of him.

It was extremely difficult to watch someone I idolized develop cancer. My grandfather fought cancer for several years and, unfortunately, it metastasized and he lost his battle on May 5, 2004. The entire time he battled cancer he always found opportunities to introduce a little humor into situations to lighten everyone’s spirits. Typical of my grandfather – placing everyone’s feelings above his.

A 150-mile bike ride is certainly an overwhelming endeavor. However, I jumped at the opportunity to participate to honor my grandfather and raise funds that may help reach a cure for this disease.

Ryan Brown is vice president of Operations at Howard County General Hospital (HCGH). He and hospital President Steve Snelgrove are leading HCGH’s team in the two-day, 150-mile Ride to Conquer Cancer, a bike ride benefiting the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center and HCGH.

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How You Can Support Our Cancer Resource Center’s Director on Her Ride to Conquer Cancer

I Ride for My Family, My Patients, and Because I Can

ride to conquer cancer

Leslie Rogers, director of Howard County General Hospital’s Claudia Mayer/Tina Broccolino Cancer Resource Center, supported her mother during her mother’s cancer surgery and recovery. Here, Leslie poses with her mother as they both try on her mother’s wigs. Leslie is raising funds in the Ride to Conquer Cancer in honor of her family members and patients who have been diagnosed with the disease.

I was excited when I heard about the Ride to Conquer Cancer, so I went to an in-service here at Howard County General Hospital (HCGH) to learn more. I’m always up for a new adventure, but this one is somehow different. Raising money for cancer services has always been close to my heart, but this came with an incredible physical challenge as well. What’s two days on a bike compared to months—even years—of cancer treatment?

I have been a certified oncology social worker for years, and I am also currently the director of HCGH’s Claudia Mayer/Tina Broccolino Cancer Resource Center. I have had the privilege of working with many patients and families in cancer treatment. I do not proclaim to be an expert on life, but I do know that people are resilient. I have been blessed to have worked with hundreds of people in a very intimate and professional capacity, during a very difficult period in their lives. I have watched them get through things they never thought they could! Whether it was hair loss, leave from their job, talking with their children, or even experiencing the death of a loved one, I have watched people surprise themselves every day. People are amazing.

I have always said that cancer is an equal opportunity offender. It doesn’t care where you work, if you are male or female, young or old, black or white. I have been humbled by those who have died. I am inspired by those who live with their diagnosis every day without hope for a cure, and I am hopeful for those who have heard the words, “no evidence of disease,” after months of treatment. I have sat with people who question their own mortality, question what they might have done wrong, and with families who wonder how they will make it through. I have learned many life lessons along the way, which help me to hug my family a little closer, laugh a little louder and sweat a little less about the little things.

On a more personal note, I have learned that cancer doesn’t have to define people. I sat with my mom after her surgery. I changed her dressings. I watched her and my kids giggle and play with her wigs. I even watched her bury her father in her wig, when cancer had to take a backseat to life. Since then, my mom has learned to ride a bike, swim, get a personal trainer and still be my mom, asking me, “Are you getting enough sleep? Are you taking care of yourself?” Moms worry about their kids at all ages.

I watched my dad’s ear get reconstructed with grafted tissue harvested from his thigh. I watch him rub a special chemotherapy cream on his skin to contain the many cancer cells on his face. I listen to him grumble about having to go to his dermatologist on a monthly basis for skin examinations, claiming, “She is just making up excuses to see me naked.”  Other than that, he is still my Dad. He fixes things around my house when he comes to visit.

I ride for many reasons. I ride for those who would love to ride but can’t. I ride for those who have been through so much. I ride because I believe in the cancer services provided here at HCGH. I ride because I can.


Click here to support Leslie and the 2015 Ride to Conquer Cancer, a two-day, 150-mile ride benefiting the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center and Howard County General Hospital. The hospital team, led by HCGH President Steve Snelgrove and Ryan Brown, vice president of Operations, includes physicians and staff who are taking this challenge to support cancer patients everywhere. Our goal is ambitious and we can’t do it without the support of our community members.
Leslie Rogers is the director of Howard County General Hospital’s Claudia Mayer/Tina Broccolino Cancer Resource Center.

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ride to conquer cancer event

John Dunn, administrative director for Diagnostic Imaging at Howard County General Hospital, is riding to conquer cancer this fall in memory of his father. He’s pictured here with his dad in front of the St. Louis Arch in 1976 and more recently in 2012 at Ocean City, NJ where the two biked together on vacation.

Father’s Memory Inspires Hospital Leader to Take Epic Challenge

What makes a person willing to ride 150 miles in just two days throughout Maryland? Knowing that you’re doing it for a good cause, a precious memory of a loved one. I’m riding in this September’s Ride to Conquer Cancer in memory of my father, also John, who lost his life to cancer a few years ago. By doing so, maybe I’ll be helping rid our world of the disease, so cancer can no longer rob us of precious moments with our loved ones.

Some of my favorite memories of my dad involve bicycling. I vividly remember one ride in the late 1970s through the Missouri countryside, near the house where I grew up. We started at dawn on a humid summer morning, and rode all day on the gravel roads in the Boone County countryside, through cow pastures and cornfields. I also have fond memories of bicycling up and down the boardwalk in Ocean City, New Jersey, and roaming the island on bikes while on vacation.

My father grew up just outside of Philadelphia. He loved sports of all kinds. He played high school basketball and ran track. He was also president of his senior class. After graduating from Penn State in 1959, he served in the Army in Fort Lee, VA. Following his discharge, he worked in retail and switched careers in the 1960s and completed a Ph.D. in agriculture at Rutgers University. He then joined the faculty at the University of Missouri and initiated the turf grass research program for the College of Agriculture. He remained involved in sports–he was a longtime member of the Columbia (Missouri) Track Club and coached youth soccer.

In October 2011, a few years after he retired, my father was diagnosed with lung cancer. It was shocking news to us all, especially since he had never smoked. He weathered the next year with courage and dignity, never complaining. He passed away on Monday, Nov. 19, 2012 at home with me, my sister and my mother by his side.

During his last year, my dad talked to me about how dying is part of the circle of life. He said, “Don’t fear dying. I have a feeling there are surprises waiting for us that are beyond our imagination.”  I don’t think he necessarily meant that in a conventional religious way. I do think he meant that life, and the universe, is more wondrous than we can grasp during our time on Earth. When I’m biking, I think about his words.

It’s been fun training for the Ride to Conquer Cancer in September. I’ve been riding on the Capital Crescent Trail, which starts near my house in Silver Spring and skirts the western border of Washington D.C., ending in Georgetown. From there, it’s a straight shot back up through Rock Creek Park to Silver Spring. It’s about 22 miles and is wonderfully scenic. As I ride, I think of how much my dad would have enjoyed the views of the Potomac River and the D.C. landmarks. Riding is a chance to reflect on some of the good times I spent with Dad.

My dad had a great sense of humor – I think I miss him most when something funny happens. He dearly loved his five grandchildren, and I wish they could have had more years with him. I wish I could have had more years with him. I’m doing my part to help conquer cancer by riding in this upcoming event and I would greatly appreciate your support.


The 2015 Ride to Conquer Cancer is a two-day, 150-mile ride benefiting the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center and Howard County General Hospital. The hospital team, led by Steve Snelgrove and Ryan Brown, includes physicians and staff who are taking this challenge to support cancer patients everywhere. Support John here. Our goal is ambitious and we can’t do it without the support of our community members.


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The Latest on Lung Cancer, and a Test that Could Save Your Life

lung cancer symptoms, screening

[© Ilexx | Dreamstime.com]

According to the National Institutes of Health, “Lung cancer is the most common type of cancer in both men and women, and the majority of these cancers are directly linked to cigarette smoking.” Lung cancer is more prevalent in smokers; however, non-smokers can also get lung cancer. If you are suffering from a chronic cough, recurring pneumonia or bronchitis, shortness of breath, or have a cough that produces blood, you should see your physician.

Smokers often disregard their cough as “a smoker’s cough” and do not seek a diagnosis until the cancer is advanced. Also, some patients in their 30s and 40s falsely believe they are too young to have lung cancer and ignore their symptoms.

In addition to smoking, risk factors for lung cancer include:

  • exposure to radon
  • secondhand smoke
  • certain chemicals or asbestos
  • a family history
  • or previous radiation to the chest.

Many people think that lung cancer is a death sentence, but, when caught early, a combination of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery can significantly increase your chances of a cure. The key is to catch the cancer in its early stages through screening.

New Screening
If you are age 55 to 80, have smoked in the last 15 years, or are currently smoking and have a 30-pack-per-year smoking history, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends you receive an annual low-dose CT scan. This test allows us to see lung cancer in its earliest stages using much less radiation than a traditional CT scan. This screening has saved many lives and is available at local imaging facilities with a prescription from your doctor.

Here to Help You Quit
Cigarette smoking is the number one risk factor for lung cancer. In fact, nearly 90 percent of lung cancers in the United States are linked to cigarette smoking. Even if you have smoked for many years, quitting now can still significantly reduce your risk for developing lung cancer. If you are looking for help to quit smoking, join the Howard County Department of Health Tobacco Cessation Program or call 410-313-6265.

In recent years, many people have been turning to e-cigarettes as a substitute for tobacco cigarettes. E-cigarette users should keep in mind that the safety of electronic cigarettes has not been adequately studied (nor demonstrated). Formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, has been shown to be an inhaled vapor of e-cigarettes.

Francis Chuidian, M.D., is a pulmonologist with Johns Hopkins Community Physicians Pulmonary Medicine in Columbia.

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Reduce your cervical cancer risk

cervical cancer vaccine

Vaccination to protect females against the types of HPV that cause most cervical cancers is recommended for 11- and 12-year-old girls, and for females 13 through 26 years who did not get the shots when they were younger. [© Bvdc | Dreamstime.com]

January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month

What is cervical cancer?
The cervix is the lowest part of the uterus, which opens at the top of the vagina during childbirth. Johns Hopkins Medicine notes that if the cells in the cervix begin to grow and change, they can become malignant and the cancer can spread to the uterus and surrounding organs.

What causes cervical cancer?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the highest risk factor for developing cervical cancer is carrying HPV, a common virus that can be passed from one person to another during sex. Worldwide studies have shown that HPV virus exists in more than 99 percent of cervical cancers and viral proteins play a role in the transformation of HPV-infected cells into tumor cells. HPV is very common and often causes no symptoms, so it can go undetected and often goes away on its own. While not all women carrying this virus will develop cervical cancer, it is important for women who know they carry the virus to have an annual Pap smear to check for changes in cervical cells.

Other things that can increase the risk of developing cervical cancer are smoking, being HIV positive, using birth control pills for more than five years, giving birth to three or more children and having multiple sexual partners.

What are the symptoms of cervical cancer?
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, in its early stages, cervical cancer usually has no noticeable symptoms, which makes it critically important for women to have Pap smears, a test to collect cells from the cervix to check for abnormal cells or signs of malignancy. Some women do experience symptoms such as abnormal vaginal bleeding or unusual discharge, pelvic pain and pain during intercourse. These symptoms are not always signs of cancer, but it is always best to check with your gynecologist to be sure. Your doctor may recommend further screening, a pelvic exam or a biopsy.

How can you reduce your risk of getting cervical cancer?
CDC recommends the following ways to reduce your risk of getting cervical cancer:

  1. Have an annual Pap test (or Pap smear) starting at age 21.
  2. Have an (HPV) test to see if you have the virus that can cause cell changes.
  3. Get an HPV vaccination.
  4. Two HPV vaccines are available to protect females against the types of HPV that cause most cervical cancers. Both are recommended for 11- and 12-year-old girls, and for females 13 through 26 years of age who did not get any or all of the shots when they were younger. Females should get the same vaccine brand for all three doses if possible. Remember that women who are vaccinated against HPV still need to have regular Pap tests because these vaccines do not protect against HPV types found in approximately 30 percent of cervical cancers.
  5. Don’t smoke.
  6. Use condoms during sex and limit your number of sexual partners.

Cervical cancer is very curable when detected early through screening with a Pap smear. Because precancerous lesions found by Pap smears can be treated and cured before they develop into cancer, and because cervical cancer is often detected before it becomes advanced, the incidence and death rates for this disease are relatively low in developed countries like the U.S. In places where there is limited access to health care and health screenings, however, the death rates are much higher.




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