First thing’s first: what are your “pack years?” Pack years are a way of calculating lung cancer risk based on how many years a person has smoked. Here’s how the equation works:
N – number of packs a day (equivalent: 20 cigarettes) x T (total years smoked) = pack years
Edith smoked 1 pack of cigarettes daily for 20 years. She has a 20 pack-year history of smoking. Multiplying N (1 pack) times 20 (years smoked) equals 20 pack years.
Fred smoked 2 packs of cigarettes daily for 30 years. Multiplying N (2 packs) by N (30 years,) Fred has a 60 pack-year smoking history.
Alice smoked 10 cigarettes (1/2 pack) per day for 30 years. Multiplying N (0.5 packs per day) by T (30 years,) Alice has a 15 pack-year history of smoking.
How do your pack years affect your lung cancer risk?
Pack years are a strong indicator of lung cancer risk. The more pack years you’ve accumulated, the greater your risk of getting lung cancer. Pack years have a much more accurate correlation with cancer risk than total years smoked. It’s essential that you and your healthcare provider know your number of pack years so that you can create a care plan that will best protect your health.
What can I do to reduce my lung cancer risk?
The number one thing you can do to cut your risk of getting lung cancer is to stop smoking completely. The number two thing you can do to protect your health is to get a Lung Scan. A Lung Scan can check your lungs for the earliest signs of cancer, even before there are symptoms.
I want to quit smoking: what’s my next step?
First, good for you. Quitting smoking is never easy, but you are making a courageous choice to take the first step toward better health and a longer life. You don’t have to go at this alone.
Meet with your doctor to discuss your next steps.