Skip to main content

Take the Quiz: Lung Cancer

Don’t be fooled by rumors and misinformation about lung cancer. Get the facts. Test your knowledge of 6 common beliefs about lung cancer.


If you’ve never smoked, you don’t need to worry about lung cancer.

The Correct Answer is False.

It’s true that smoking is by far the leading risk factor for lung cancer. But you don’t have to smoke to get lung cancer. As many as 20% of people diagnosed with lung cancer in the US have never smoked. This translates to more than 40,000 cases of lung cancer diagnosed each year in people who don't smoke, more often in women than men. These can be caused by exposure to radon, secondhand smoke, air pollution, and exposure to certain cancer-causing agents at work.

Breathing in the smoke of others (called secondhand smoke or environmental tobacco smoke) increases a risk of developing lung cancer in people who don't smoke. In fact, secondhand smoke is thought to cause more than 7,300 deaths from lung cancer each year.

People who don't smoke who breathe in secondhand smoke take in nicotine and cancer-causing chemicals by the same route people who smoke do. The more secondhand smoke you breathe, the higher the level of these harmful chemicals in your body. In fact, if you don't smoke and you live or work with someone who does, you have about a 20% to 30% greater risk of developing lung cancer.


There’s nothing people can do to lower their chances of getting lung cancer.

The Correct Answer is False.

People who smoke can quit, which lowers their chances of getting lung cancer. Quitting tobacco is the single most important thing anyone can do to decrease their lung cancer risk.

People who smoke should also be aware of the symptoms of lung cancer, such as chest pain, weakness, and shortness of breath, and see a doctor if they notice changes like these.

People who don't smoke can take precautions, too. Limiting exposure to secondhand smoke is easier than ever before thanks to local, state, and federal laws. It’s also important to find out if radon is a problem in your home. Workplace exposures to things known to be linked to lung cancer, like asbestos, radioactive ores, certain chemicals, and diesel exhaust should also be limited. Protect yourself – and your lungs – whenever possible.


For people who smoke, much of the lung damage that can lead to cancer can be repaired if they quit smoking.

The Correct Answer is True.

Over time, there are many benefits to quitting smoking, here are a few examples:

  • 2 weeks to 3 months after quitting your circulation improves and your lung function increases.
  • 1 to 9 months after quitting coughing and shortness of breath decrease.
  • 10 years after quitting the risk of dying from lung cancer is about half that of a person who is still smoking.

Quitting while you are younger will reduce your health risks more, but quitting at any age can give back years of life that would be lost by continuing to smoke.


Replacing cigarettes with spit tobacco or snuff is a safe way to decrease lung cancer risk.

The Correct Answer is False.

Tobacco that’s put in the mouth, such as spit, oral, smokeless, chewing, and snuff tobacco is less lethal than smoking tobacco and not linked to lung cancer – but less lethal is a far cry from safe.

People who use spit and other types of smokeless tobacco greatly increase their risk of other cancers, including those of the mouth, throatesophagus (the swallowing tube that connects the mouth and the stomach), stomach, and pancreas.

All forms of tobacco are hazardous to your health.


Lung cancer is one of the deadliest cancers.

The Correct Answer is True.

Lung cancer is by far the leading cause of cancer death. Each year, more people in the US die of lung cancer than of colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined.


Lung cancer often doesn’t cause problems until it’s too late to cure it.

The Correct Answer is True.

Most lung cancers do not cause symptoms until they have spread too far to be cured. But symptoms do occur in some people with early lung cancer. Some of the most common symptoms of lung cancer are:

  • A cough that does not go away or gets worse
  • Chest pain that is often worse with deep breathing, coughing, or laughing
  • Unexplained weight loss and loss of appetite
  • Coughing up blood or rust-colored sputum (spit or phlegm)
  • Infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia that don’t go away or keep coming back

If you go to a doctor when you first notice symptoms, the cancer might be diagnosed at an earlier stage, when treatment works best.

People who currently smoke and those who quit smoking can get screened for lung cancer, too. Screening gives you a chance to find lung cancer early – when it’s small and easier to treat. Lung cancer screening doesn’t decrease the chance of getting lung cancer, but it can help lower the risk of dying from the disease.

Lung cancer screening isn’t for everyone. The American Cancer Society recommends annual lung cancer screening with a low-dose CT scan (LDCT) for certain people at higher risk for lung cancer who meet the following conditions:

  • Are 50 to 80 years old, and
  • Currently smoke or have quit, and
  • Have at least a 20-pack-year smoking history. (This is the number of packs of cigarettes per day multiplied by the number of years smoked. For example, someone who smoked 2 packs a day for 10 years [2 x 10 = 20] has 20 pack-years of smoking, as does a person who smoked 1 pack a day for 20 years [1 x 20 = 20].)

In addition, it’s important that people who are considering screening:

  • Receive smoking cessation counseling if they currently smoke, and 
  • Have been told by their doctor about the purpose of screening and how it is done, as well as the benefits, limits, and possible harms of screening, and
  • Talk to their doctor about their health and willingness to be treated. People should not be screened if they have serious health problems that might limit how long they'll live, or if they won’t be able to or won’t want to get treatment if lung cancer is found.

Talk to a doctor to find out if lung cancer screening is right for you.

Your score is

We can help you learn the facts!

There’s more you need to know about lung cancer and tobacco. Check out our lung cancer section to learn more about lung cancer, screening for it, and what you can do to stay as healthy as possible. Our “Stay Away from Tobacco” section can give you everything from quitting advice, to facts and stats about many different forms of tobacco.

Your score is

Good job!

You’ve made a great start, but there are still some myths clouding your knowledge, and some facts you may not be aware of. Check the links in the answers you got wrong – they can take you right to the information you need. Check out our lung cancer section to learn more about lung cancer, screening for it, and what you can do to stay as healthy as possible. Our “Stay Away from Tobacco” section can give you everything from quitting advice, to facts and stats about many different forms of tobacco.

Your score is

You have a strong understanding of lung cancer!

Congratulations! There’s always more to learn, so go to our lung cancer section to find out more about lung cancer, screening for it, and what you can do to stay as healthy as possible. You can also learn more about the dangers of tobacco and secondhand smoke, and find quit support in our “Stay Away from Tobacco” section.