Your Guide to Preventing Lung Cancer

Time to Read: About 3 minutes

This information explains lung cancer and its symptoms. It describes the risk factors for developing lung cancer, and the eligibility factors for getting a lung cancer screening. It also gives prevention information, including how to lower your risk for lung cancer and the benefits of quitting smoking. 

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Did You Know?

  • Lung cancer is the #1 cause of cancer-related deaths in men and women.
  • 80% of all lung cancer is caused by smoking.
  • Exposure to secondhand smoke causes over 7,000 lung cancer deaths in nonsmokers every year.
  • 8 million Americans who are at high risk for lung cancer should get a screening every year.
  • Lung cancer screening finds 80% of lung cancer at an early stage when it is easier to treat.
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Lung Cancer Risk Factors

  • Smoking
  • Secondhand smoke
  • Exposure to toxic substances (such as radon, asbestos, environmental sources)
  • You or someone related to you by blood had lung cancer
  • Age
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  • Most people do not have any signs of lung cancer. Often the first sign of the disease is an abnormal spot on a chest X-ray or on a CT scan you had for another medical condition
  • It’s possible that you may feel 1 or more of these symptoms:
    • Coughing
    • Shortness of breath
    • Coughing up phlegm, mucus, or blood
    • Loss of appetite
    • Chest pain
    • Fatigue (very tired)
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Getting Screened Is A Breath Of Fresh Air

If everything on this list describes you, you can get a lung cancer screening:

  • Are between the ages of 50 and 80
  • Have smoked an average of 1 pack a day for at least 20 years or a similar amount (for example, 2 packs a day for 10 years)
  • Smoke now (you smoke on some days or every day)
  • Quit smoking within the past 15 years

See if you’re eligible for a lung cancer screening with our 2 minute online quiz at If you want to schedule a screening visit, call 646-497-9163.

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What Is A Lung Cancer Screening?

A lung cancer screening includes meeting with a healthcare provider, followed by an X-ray known as a low-dose CT scan. The scan is painless, takes less than 5 minutes, and test results are usually ready within 24 hours.

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What Can I Do To Keep My Lungs Healthy?

  • Don’t smoke: It’s the best thing you can do to help keep your lungs healthy. If you do smoke, safe and effective treatment is available.
  • Avoid indoor and outdoor pollutants
  • Wash your hands often to prevent getting respiratory infections
  • Get your annual physical
  • Get moving, exercise strengthens the lungs
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Talk To Your Children About Smoking

  • Start talking to your kids about the dangers of smoking cigarettes and e-cigarettes during kindergarten and through high school.
  • Parents who smoke are more likely to have children who smoke. Set a good example for your kids by not smoking. Talk with your kids about how hard it is to quit smoking and how you wish you had never started smoking.
  • Give your kids the tools to say no to offers for cigarettes or e-cigarettes.
  • If your child is smoking, remind them of the dangers and keep communication open so they are comfortable discussing it with you.

Among adults who have ever smoked daily, 87% had tried their first cigarette by the time they were 18, and 95% by the time they were 21.

About 4.5 million US teenagers smoke.

E-cigarettes make this problem worse, with over 5,700 kids starting to vape every day.

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What About Electronic Smoking Devices?

Electronic cigarettes are battery-powered devices. They also are known as e-cigarettes, vaporizers, vape pens, Juuls, and hookah pens. They don’t burn tobacco like regular cigarettes. Instead, they have pods filled with nicotine and other chemicals that can cause breathing problems in some people. Electronic smoking devices aren’t an approved way to quit using tobacco. We recommend that you use safe and proven methods, such as nicotine patches, gum, or lozenges, to help quit.

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Every Quit Counts

MSK’s Tobacco Treatment Program is open to all smokers and other tobacco users. It’s for people who have never had cancer or a tobacco-related disease, those diagnosed with cancer, and cancer survivors. We welcome you whether or not you’re ready to quit. We can recommend many tobacco treatment options, such as individual or group counseling, telehealth, educational resources, and cessation medications to help you quit. We understand just how hard it is to quit smoking. We are here to help and support you to reach your smoke-free goals. Call us today at 212-610-0507 to speak to one of our Tobacco Treatment Specialists.

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Health Benefits Of Quitting

  • 20 minutes after quitting your blood pressure drops to your normal level. The temperature of your hands and feet rises to your normal level.
  • 8 hours after quitting the level of carbon monoxide in your blood drops to normal. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless toxic gas released into your bloodstream when you smoke.
  • 24 hours after quitting your chance of a heart attack falls.
  • 1 year after quitting the risk of heart disease is half that of a smoker’s.
  • 10 years after quitting your risk of dying from lung cancer is half that of a person who still smokes. The risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, kidney, and pancreas is lower.
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Our Locations

New York

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
MSK Commack Nonna’s Garden Foundation Center
MSK Nassau
MSK Ralph Lauren Center
MSK Westchester

New Jersey

MSK Basking Ridge
MSK Bergen
MSK Monmouth

For more information about gynecological cancers, visit or call 800-525-2225.

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