Lung cancer facts: Understanding the #1 killer

There’s no easy way to say it: Lung cancer is the leading cancer killer among men and women in the United States.

“More people die from lung cancer than from prostate, breast, colon and pancreas cancers combined,” said Jose F. Escobar, MD, medical director of thoracic surgery at Baylor Regional Medical Center at Grapevine and a surgeon on the medical staff at Baylor Medical Center at Irving.

Dr. Escovar recently sat down with us to answer common questions about the disease and offer new hope for those at highest risk.

Do I have to worry about lung cancer if I don’t smoke?

Yes, unfortunately a significant percentage of individuals with lung cancer have never smoked. Women seem to fall into this category more than men. In fact, 20 percent of women who develop lung cancer have never smoked.

Is lung cancer treatable?

If you find lung cancer at an early stage, it’s very treatable with surgery. We also have less invasive treatment options, including localized radiation or ablation, which uses very hot or very cold temperatures to kill or shrink the tumor.

The problem is, symptoms, such as persistent cough or pain in the chest with deep breaths, don’t show up until the cancer has grown significantly.

Are there tests that can find lung cancer early?


There is a low-dose CT lung cancer screening for high-risk patients.

Who is considered “high risk” and eligible for the CT scan screening?

Generally, people older than 50 who have a “30-year pack history” can be screened. This basically means they have smoked the equivalent of one pack a day for 30 years or two packs a day for 15 years.

Other risk factors may come into play too, so talk to your doctor.

For more information about lung cancer and where to go for a screening, visit Baylor Scott & White Health lung cancer services

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Lung cancer facts: Understanding the #1 killer