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Lung Cancer: Tobacco Is Usually the Cause, but Not Always

I’m Shep O’Neal with the VOA Special English Health Report.

Last week, a man who was a nightly presence in millions of American homes died of lung cancer.

Peter Jennings read the news for ABC television for more than twenty years. He also reported from around the world. Mister Jennings was sixty-seven years old.

Since his death, many people have questions about lung cancer and how to prevent it.

Most lung cancer deaths are caused by tobacco use. Peter Jennings smoked cigarettes for many years. But smokers are not the only ones at risk. So are people who breathe tobacco smoke in the air. Radon gas in the environment, particles of the fire-resistant material asbestos and air pollution also increase the risk.

More people die of lung cancer than any other form of cancer. Each year, more than one million die of the disease. Once it is found, more than ninety percent of patients are dead within two years.

People often do not show signs until the cancer has spread to the brain, liver or bones. Then it is usually too late to cure. Signs of lung cancer include a cough that gets worse and pain in the chest area. People may cough up blood and lose their normal voice. Weight loss and feeling tired are two other signs.

The American Cancer Society says lung cancer is most often found when people reach their seventies. It is generally rare in people under the age of forty.

There are two major kinds: small-cell and non-small-cell lung cancer. Non-small cell lung cancers are the most common. These usually spread at a slower rate to other parts of the body.

Doctors can usually remove a lung cancer if it is found early. Other treatments involve radiation or chemotherapy drugs, or both.

Lung cancer is most common among smokers. Non-smokers, however, are more likely to have a kind of lung cancer that is linked to genetics. Experts say new drugs offer better treatment for this form of lung cancer.

Two days after Peter Jennings died, Dana Reeve announced that she has lung cancer. Her husband was Christopher Reeve, the actor who was thrown from a horse and broke his neck. Dana Reeve took care of him for nine years until his death last year. She did not give details of her condition. But a spokeswoman said the forty-four-year-old actress is not a smoker.

This VOA Special English Health Report was written by Cynthia Kirk. Our reports are on the Web at I’m Shep O’Neal.