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Become a member and receive career-enhancing benefits

Our top priority is providing value to members. Your Member Services team is here to ensure you maximize your ACS member benefits, participate in College activities, and engage with your ACS colleagues. It's all here.

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November Is Lung Cancer Awareness and National Smoking Cessation Month

More People Should Be Screened for Lung Cancer

Lung cancer causes the most deaths from cancer in the nation, accounting for about 1 in 4 of all cancer deaths in the U.S. Screening for lung cancer is one of the most effective ways to detect lung cancer at its earliest stages when it is most treatable and even curable. Unfortunately, far too few Americans – only about 6% of eligible patients – are routinely screened for lung cancer, resulting in thousands of preventable deaths every year.

For Lung Cancer Awareness Month and National Smoking Cessation Month, the American College of Surgeons (ACS), a member of the National Lung Cancer Roundtable, is supporting the second annual National Lung Cancer Screening Day on November 11, which aims to enhance access to lung cancer screening and raise awareness of lung cancer among veterans and other at-risk groups.

Recognizing the need to connect all patients, especially those undergoing treatment for cancer, with smoking cessation resources, the ACS Commission on Cancer is also leading efforts to provide empathetic and accessible smoking cessation programs through the Just ASK and Beyond ASK quality improvement projects.

Surgeons Available for Interviews

Profile image of Luis A. Godoy, MD, FACS, Assistant Professor of General Thoracic Surgery at UC Davis Health
Bilingual
Luis A. Godoy, MD, FACS, Assistant Professor of General Thoracic Surgery at UC Davis Health
“Lung cancer is a curable disease if it’s diagnosed early. That’s where screening comes into play because we can cure people’s lung cancer if it’s detected in time. Screening involves a non-invasive, low-dose CT scan of the chest that takes only a few minutes to complete and can ultimately save your life.”
Profile image of Timothy Mullett, MD, MBA, FACS, Chair, ACS CoC; Medical Director, Markey Cancer Center Network Development
Smoking Cessation
Timothy Mullett, MD, MBA, FACS, Chair, ACS CoC; Medical Director, Markey Cancer Center Network Development
“Quitting smoking is hard work but has tremendous health benefits. Just as we have experts in surgery, we also have experts in tobacco treatment, and we want more people to have access to programs that provide people with the tools they need to quit smoking.”

An advocate and leader in lung cancer awareness and smoking cessation resources, Dr. Mullett recently participated in an initiative of President Biden’s cancer panel, Reducing Cancer Care Inequities: Leveraging Technology to Enhance Patient Navigation, and was also part of a forum in June focused on expanding equitable access to smoking cessation programs.

Essential Facts about Lung Cancer

  • Excluding skin cancers, lung cancer is the second most common cancer diagnosed in the United States.
  • Lung cancer accounts for the most cancer deaths, causing more deaths than prostate, breast, and colon cancers combined. Roughly 25% of cancer deaths can be attributed to lung cancer.
  • The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends annual lung cancer screenings with a low-dose CT scan for adults ages 50 to 80 with a 20-pack-year smoking history who currently smoke or have quit smoking within the past 15 years. The American Cancer Society also recently expanded its guidelines to encourage screening among this same population regardless of how many years ago they quit.
  • A pack year is calculated by multiplying the number of packs of cigarettes smoked per day by the number of years the person has smoked. For example, a patient who smoked two packs per day for 10 years would have a 20-pack-year smoking history.
  • Only about 6% of eligible patients are routinely screened for lung cancer, which is dramatically lower than rates for screening mammograms (80%) and colorectal cancer screening (70%). In some states, screening rates are as low as 1%.
  • Some symptoms of lung cancer include difficulty breathing and coughing up blood, but these symptoms tend to appear when the disease has already spread and is more advanced.

What to Know about Lung Cancer Screening

The most effective way to screen for lung cancer is with a low-dose CT scan. While a CT scan may sound intimidating, screening is painless and only takes a few minutes to complete.

For screening to truly make an impact in reducing deaths from lung cancer, more people need to get screened.

Essential Facts about Smoking Cessation: Not Just about Lung Cancer

November is also Smoking Cessation Awareness Month. While cigarette smoking is a leading cause of lung cancer and kicking the nicotine habit is one the best ways to reduce the risk of developing lung cancer, quitting smoking also has tremendous health benefits beyond just preventing lung cancer.

  • Smoking is known to cause 12 different types of cancer, including lung cancer.
  • Continued smoking can negatively affect cancer treatment and smoking cessation can improve survival.
  • Smoking cessation AFTER a cancer diagnosis is associated with a 45% median reduction in mortality.
  • Smoking cessation AT ANY TIME reduces non-cancer mortality, including heart disease and pulmonary disease.
  • Most adults who smoke cigarettes report wanting to quit, but fewer than one in ten succeed in quitting each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Smoking cessation programs provide smokers with practical and individualized ways to quit smoking, including counseling and access to medications such as nicotine replacement therapies. Using evidence-based approaches, these programs can increase the chances of effective intervention.
  • There are several different treatment options to promote quitting tobacco smoking, including medication, counseling, and social support.

Improving Accessibility of Smoking Cessation Resources

Asking for help can make a huge difference in the ability to quit smoking and develop healthier habits. Everyone deserves empathetic health care, but smoking resources are not always easily accessible or brought up during routine exams or appointments for cancer care.

The American College of Surgeons is leading efforts to incorporate discussions about smoking cessation into patients’ cancer care across US hospitals. Across the country, 776 centers accredited by the ACS Commission on Cancer joined the 2022 Just ASK Quality Improvement Project & Clinical Study, which led to an increase in the number of clinicians asking all new patients about smoking and identifying patients who currently smoke and may benefit from referrals to smoking cessation programs.

The next study, BeyondASK, will focus on empathetic and practical ways clinicians can assist patients with quitting, counseling, and medication, as well as referring patients to specialized programs that fit their needs.

Learn more about these initiatives.

“We need to be having more frank conversations about smoking cessation. Quitting smoking can not only reduce the risk of getting cancer, but it can also reduce the risk of dying from other smoking-related illnesses that may occur during or after cancer treatment. Patients deserve equitable access to these services without facing stigma or judgment.” – Timothy Mullett, MD, MBA, FACS, Chair of the Commission on Cancer

Smoking Cessation Resources