November is National Lung Cancer Awareness Month, and the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention is encouraging current and former smokers who are at high risk of developing lung cancer to talk with a health care provider about being screened for the disease. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for both men and women in Maine, with 30-percent of all cancer deaths in Maine due to lung cancer, according the most recent statistics.

Maine Department of Health and Human Services State Health Officer Dr. Christopher Pezzullo says new cases of lung cancer are consistently higher in Maine than in the U.S. as a whole, and about 75-percent of new lung cancers in Maine are diagnosed in late stages.  Pezullo says it's potentially live-saving for those who smoke or who have smoked in the past speak to speak with their doctor about screening because the chances of earlier diagnoses and treatment rise dramatically.

Partnership for a Tobacco-Free Maine

The U. S. Preventive Services Task Force says cigarette smoking is linked to over 80-percent of all lung cancers in the United States. The Task Force recommends adults age 55 to 80 be screened for lung cancer if they have a history of heavy smoking, currently smoke or have quit smoking within the past 15 years. A history of heavy smoking is defined as smoking an average of one pack of cigarettes per day for 30 years or more.

Pezzullo says it's important to talk with a health care provider about your medical history and the risks for all cancers. Quitting smoking at any age can reduce the risk of lung cancer. The Maine Tobacco HelpLine (800-207-1230) provides resources for quitting tobacco.