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Just Breathe pt. 3

Dec 24, 2021

Welcome back to UHC’s House Call on WDTV. About every two and a half minutes, someone in the United States is diagnosed with lung cancer, and 4 in 5 of those diagnosed will ultimately succumb to the disease. November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month and joining us tonight is Lauren McCauley-Hixenbaugh, Program Manager, with WVU Cancer Institute Mobile Screening Program, for part three of a four part interview series on lung cancer and the importance of a lung cancer screening. Mountains of Hope is WV’s Comprehensive Cancer Coalition facilitated by the WVU Cancer Institute.

1). What are the health benefits of quitting smoking over time?

During our last House Call, we discussed lung cancer risk factors and identified smoking as the number one risk factor, but the good news is people who quit smoking can heal their bodies. Within minutes of smoking your last cigarette, your body begins to recover.


  • 20 minutes your heart rate and blood pressure drop;
  • a few days the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal;
  • 2 weeks to 3 months your circulation improves, and your lung function increases;
  • 1 to 12 months coughing and shortness of breath decreases;
  • 1 to 2 years your risk of a heart attack drops dramatically;
  • 5 to 10 years your risk of cancers of the mouth, throat, and voice box (larynx) is cut in half and your stroke risk decreases;
  • 10 years your risk of lung cancer is about half that of a person who is still smoking; and
  • 15 years your risk of coronary heart disease is close to that of a nonsmoker.

2). Smoking is not the only cause of lung cancer, explain for us with some detail what else is potentially harmful that may lead to lung cancer?

Radon gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer. Radon is a colorless and odorless gas that can sweep into homes and buildings. Some geographical areas have naturally higher prevalence of high radon levels than others, but any home can have elevated levels. Most WV counties have areas with high radon. WV residents living in zone 1 and 2 counties should test their homes.

Secondhand smoke also poses a threat. Nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke at home or at work increase their risk of developing lung cancer by 20 to 30 percent.

More than 1 in 3 nonsmokers residing in multi-unit housing are exposed to secondhand smoke, placing them at higher risk for health conditions including cancer and heart disease. Secondhand smoke exposure causes more than 7,300 lung cancer deaths each year among adult nonsmokers.

Some occupational industries have higher levels of secondhand smoke exposure such as construction, mining, and even for some in food services.

3). What can be done to lower lung cancer risks?

West Virginia residents can lower their risk of lung cancer, as well as the risk of those around them, through these steps:

  • Talk to your healthcare provider if you have any of the risk factors mentioned here and encourage others who meet the criteria to do the same.
  • If you or someone you know is ready to quit smoking, seek out a smoking cessation program, such as the WV QUIT LINE (1-800-QUIT NOW).
  • Test your home for radon and if present, complete mitigation measures.
  • Support comprehensive and strong tobacco control policies, including:
    • Higher tobacco taxes, which both encourage people to quit and prevent children and others from starting to smoke.
    • Adequate funding of tobacco control programs, which are an important part of helping people quit and keeping potential new smokers from starting.
    • Comprehensive coverage of all FDA-approved smoking cessation medication and the three forms of counseling, with no barriers to accessing these, which leads to more successful quit attempts.
    • Make your house and car clean air zones, with no smoking allowed.
    • Avoid places that are not smoke free, and advocate for smoke free air policies in restaurants, bars, casinos, or anywhere these policies are not in place.
    • Test your house for radon and take steps to reduce your risk if levels are too high.
    • Reduce your exposure to unhealthy outdoor air:
      • Stay indoors on unhealthy air days
      • Support clean air policies, including emissions limits and no vehicle idling zones.

If you would like more information please go to Mountains of Hope’s website at

This content was originally posted on the WDTV News website here.

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