Lung cancer surgery for country music legend Merle Haggard has focused new attention onto the type of cancer which remains the number one killer, despite decades of research, 1200 WOAI's Berit Mason reports.
"It's still with us, and unfortunately, it still takes a significant toll," said Dr. Kyriakos Papadopoulos, a lung cancer specialist with South Texas Oncology Hematology, the region's leading cancer research and treatment center.
He says lung cancer still kills more people than breast, colon, and prostate cancers combined, some 200,000 Americans a year will be diagnosed with the cancer.
"Unfortunately, people have not stopped smoking, there are still a large percentage of people who continue to smoke."
But Papadopoulos says even people who stopped smoking decades ago, or never smoked, are still susceptible to the disease. He says second hand smoke, and exposure to air pollution are common causes.
"Smoke in the environment and other pollutants in the environment add to the possibility that you'll get this cancer," he said.
Dr. Papadopoulos says there are some signs you should watch for.
"If you develop symptoms like a persistent cough, or you cough up blood, or you become short of breath, these are signs that you should see your physician."
Haggard, 71, underwent surgery to have a cancerous tumor removed from his right lung. The legendary singer and Country Music Hall of Fame member's prognosis is good.