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February 2024

What Women Need to Know About Lung Cancer

When it comes to lung cancer, many American women may be misinformed, which puts them at risk of dying from this deadly disease.

Although breast cancer is more common among American women, lung cancer is the top cancer killer of women (and men) in the U.S.  In fact, lung cancer has killed more women than breast cancer for close to 35 years.

Risk factors

Smoking is the number one risk factor for lung cancer. While a nonsmoker’s chance of getting lung cancer is small, exposure to secondhand smoke, radon, asbestos, and air pollution can increase the risk.

Lifesaving screenings

For most people, lung cancer is not diagnosed until a late stage when the survival rate is only 7%. Screening with a low-dose spiral computed tomography scan can help catch the cancer earlier when it is more likely to be curable.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends an annual lung cancer screening for adults between the ages of 50 and 80 who have a 20 pack-per-year smoking history and currently smoke or quit smoking within the past 15 years. A 20 pack per year soke history is defined as those who have smoked one pack of cigarettes a day for 20 years or more or two packs a day for 10 years or more.


Many people with early stage lung cancer do not have symptoms. But as the disease progresses, they may experience:

  • Chronic cough or chest pain

  • Hoarseness, shortness of breath, or wheezing

  • Frequent lung infections, such as bronchitis or pneumonia

  • Coughing up blood

  • Weight loss

  • Headaches or bone pain

  • Feeling very tired all the time

Contact your healthcare provider if you develop any of these symptoms.

Take a quiz

Take this Lung Cancer Risk Quiz by the American Lung Association. It’ll help you figure out if you should talk with your provider about getting screened for this disease.


Online Medical Reviewer: Brian McDonough, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Stacey Wojcik, MBA, BSN, RN
Date Last Reviewed: 12/1/2022
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