Preventing lung cancer: how to quit smoking

By: Dr. Albert Chang, Cardiothoracic Surgeon, MCG Health System
By: Dr. Albert Chang, Cardiothoracic Surgeon, MCG Health System

If you want to prevent lung cancer, the three most important things you can do are: Don’t smoke, don’t smoke and don’t smoke.

Lung cancer kills more men and women than prostate or breast cancer. But 80 percent of lung cancers could be prevented if people did not pick up that first cigarette. And if you quit, you can help reduce your risk of developing lung cancer over time.

Quitting is different for every smoker. But in general, you can try three things:

1. Set a quit date. Before your quit date, “psych” yourself up to quit by reminding yourself why you want to quit and the benefits of quitting (better health, better breath, longer life — and you save the cost of cigarettes). Work on identifying and finding alternatives for those “triggers” that cause you to smoke, including stress, drinking, etc.

2. Ease into it. Before your quit date, you can, if you choose, ease into quitting smoking by eliminating smoking from certain parts of your life. For example, you can tell yourself that you will no longer smoke in the car or take those smoke breaks at work.

3. Get help. Support can come in many forms, from a “quit buddy” to a support group to nicotine patches or gums. Prescription medications are also available that can help you quit.

Don’t forget to have regular checkups, particularly if you are a past smoker. Regular visits to a physician may help uncover other signs and symptoms of lung problems and increase your total health. While recent studies have shown that CT scans may hold some promise in detecting lung cancer early, lung cancer historically is difficult to detect in its early stages. If something is found on your CT scan or X-ray, optimal care should involve consultation with a thoracic surgeon for further evaluation and treatment options. Remember, early detection with appropriate management can increase survival rates up to 85 percent.

MCG Health System is composed of three separate organizations -- MCG Health, Inc. and the clinical services offered by the faculty employees of the Medical College of Georgia and the members of the MCG Physicians Practice Group Foundation. The physicians of MCG Health System are community physicians, faculty employees of the Medical College of Georgia, or employees of the MCG Physicians Practice Group Foundation, not employees of MCG Health, Inc. MCG Health, Inc. is a not-for-profit corporation operating the MCG Medical Center, MCG Children’s Medical Center, the MCG Sports Medicine Center, MCG Ambulatory Care Center, the Georgia Radiation Therapy Center and related clinical facilities and services. MCG Health, Inc. was formed to support the research and education mission of the Medical College of Georgia and to build the economic growth of the CSRA, the state of Georgia and the Southeast by providing an environment for faculty employees of the Medical College of Georgia and the MCG Physicians Practice Group Foundation and community physicians to deliver the highest level of primary and specialty health care. For more information, please visit

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