November is National Lung Cancer Awareness Month.
Gupta said lung cancer is unique because "not only is it prevalent, but it is also avoidable.
"For a lot of the cancers, we don't understand the reason people get them," Gupta said, "but lung cancer can be prevented in the first place from not smoking and not being around smoke."
Nonsmokers have a 20 percent to 30 percent greater chance of developing lung cancer if they are exposed to secondhand smoke, the ALA stated. Exposure to secondhand smoke is blamed for 3,400 lung cancer deaths among nonsmokers every year.
Cigarettes contain more than 4,800 chemicals, 69 that are known to cause cancer, according to the ALA.
Not every person who gets lung cancer is a smoker, though, and not all smokers develop lung cancer. Ten percent of lung cancer patients are exposed to other risk factors.
The second leading cause among nonsmokers is exposure to radon, an invisible gas, according to the ALA.
Working in occupations that expose people to asbestos can lead to lung cancer, Gupta said.
He said there are no specific signs to look for when detecting lung cancer because most of them -- continuous coughing, repeated cases of pneumonia and difficulty breathing -- are symptoms that occur with other diseases, too.
'Why take a 50/50 chance?'
Michelle Stevens, mission delivery account manager for the state American Cancer Society chapter, asks those who do smoke cigarettes: "Why take a 50/50 chance on your life?
"Why would you take your life at such a high risk just to [smoke cigarettes]? If you try it just one time, you could get addicted," Stevens said. "So why would you want to risk in trying it, becoming addicted for life and taking your life at risk?"
Seven out of 10 smokers do want to quit, Gupta said.
It's not that people who smoke don't know it's bad for their health, he said, it's the fact that they are addicted.
"We have to help them," he said.
People who don't get treatment and do develop lung cancer have several options, such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, Gupta said.
For those who want to quit now, though, there are numerous options. Counseling, nicotine-replacement products, such as patches and gum, and meeting with a doctor are a few options, he said.
The West Virginia Quitline, 1-877-966-8784; The American Cancer Society, 1-800-227-2345; the state Division of Tobacco Prevention, 1-304-356-4193; or the American Lung Association's website, www.lung.org/stop-smoking, are available, too.
"We have to try to get people to quit, but when they want to quit, they should have everything available to them. They shouldn't have to spend an arm and a leg if they want to quit," Gupta said. "We have to be there for them. Even though people want to quit, quitting is the hard choice and continuing to smoke is the easy choice. We have to make quitting the easy choice for smokers."
Reach Megan Workman at megan.work...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5113.