SAINT PAUL, Minn. — It's really no surprise that smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer.

"85% of the time it's still tobacco smoking," says Dr. Arek Dudek, Medical Oncologist at Regions Hospital.

The hope was that vaping would help lower lung cancer levels but, according to Dr. Dudek, vaping isn't a free pass to inhale.

"It does still contain volatile aromatic agent compounds that can cause cancer," he says.

In a cruel twist, you can avoid smoking all your life and still be susceptible to lung cancer - from environment factors like radon, asbestos, car exhaust and second-hand smoke.

"It's estimated that about 7,300 individuals die from lung cancer that is caused by second hand smoking," Dr. Dudek says.

The cancer strikes most often between the ages of 55 and 65. Common symptoms include chronic cough, coughing up blood, chest pain and shortness of breath. 

There are two major types: non small cell lung cancer, which is the most common, and small cell lung cancer, which spreads more quickly.  

"Can we actually cure lung cancer? The answer - yes, we can," says Dr. Dudek. "We can cure the cancer when it is discovered at a very early stage."

The problem is, not many people get screened.

"Only 4% of people who are eligible actually get screened, so we really need to make a better effort," Dr. Dudek says.

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Right now, all lung cancer programs in Minnesota are under-utilized. 

"If someone is a current smoker or former smoker, they should talk to their primary care physician to be part of a lung cancer screening program," Dr. Dudek says. 

You can learn more about lung cancer screening here.

Here are Dr. Dudek's tips for maintaining lung health: Quit smoking, check your home to make sure it has acceptable radon levels, and get regular exercise, such as walking at least 30 minutes a day.

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