Each year on August 1st, the global respiratory community recognizes World Lung Cancer Day as a way to increase awareness and resources to fight the disease that accounts for 1-in-4 cancer deaths.

On this year’s World Lung Cancer Day, the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS) has stressed the importance of symptom awareness and early screening to diagnose and treat lung cancer. 

According to the American Thoracic Society, lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer death. With more than 2.2 million new cases of lung cancer in 2020 and 1.80 million deaths, globally, lung cancer is responsible for 1-in-4 cancer deaths.

According to the World Health Organization, lung cancer kills more people yearly than breast, colon and prostate cancers combined.  “World Lung Cancer Day is an opportunity for the members of the Forum of International Respiratory Societies to collectively bring increased symptom awareness to not only lung cancer, but to lung health in general,” says ATS President Gregory Downey, MD, ATSF. “Knowing the signs of lung disease – lung cancer, COPD, bronchiectasis, etc. – will help lead to proactive health care visits, earlier testing, more timely diagnoses and overall reduced global mortality.” 

To recognize lung cancer earlier, it is crucial to be aware of the symptoms, the ATS says. The most common symptoms of lung cancer are: 

  • A cough that does not go away or gets worse
  • Coughing up blood or rust-colored sputum (spit or phlegm)
  • Chest pain that is often worse with deep breathing, coughing, or laughingHoarsenessLoss of appetiteUnexplained weight loss
  • Shortness of breathFeeling tired or weak
  • Recurring infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia
  • New onset of wheezing 

In addition to knowing the signs of lung cancer, access to screening options is vital for reducing lung cancer deaths through early detection and treatment. 

“Early detection of lung cancer can save lives by expanding treatment options and slowing the spread,” said Dr. Downey. “It is our hope that increasing awareness of the symptoms will help people know to seek out medical care, so we can catch this disease as early as possible.”  

To identify and diagnose lung cancer in its earlier stages, it is recommended to seek lung cancer screening with a low-dose tomography (also known as low-dose CT or LDCT). If the individual is a smoker or a former smoker, lung cancer screening is recommended even if they are not experiencing any signs or symptoms.