Hot on the heels of October and our pink awareness ribbons for Breast Cancer Awareness comes November and Lung Cancer Awareness, the oft neglected (in terms of research funding) cancer, with the white ribbon!
If you are like me, you hear lung cancer and you immediately think, “Well, that’s why people shouldn’t smoke…”
And then you get a harsh dose of reality when someone you know gets handed a life sentence with a diagnosis of stage-4 lung cancer and they have never smoked a day in their life. This is exactly what happened to my sister almost two years ago (she was just 32 years old). Her lung cancer could not be attributed to smoking, radon gas exposure, second-hand smoke, or workplace exposure. After a few months of testing, the cause was determined to be a genetic mutation called ROS-1.
When you hear from the doctors that her prognosis is dependent upon keeping her as healthy as we can “to stay ahead of science,” it is like a kick in the gut. You think, “But, we have come so far in the fight against cancer – so many people are fighting and beating breast cancer, for example!” but then you realize the stigma that comes with lung cancer is one that is not easily overcome. This is not a cancer to which people readily donate.
This must be changed, but it can only change with increased awareness.
What You Need to Know
- Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide
- Lung cancer causes more deaths than breast, colon, and prostate cancers combined
- In 2013, the tobacco industry spent over 43 times more on tobacco advertising and promotion in the U.S. than the NIH spent on lung cancer research ($8.948 billion tobacco industry versus $208 million NIH research). 1
- About 31,000 non-smokers in the US die from lung cancer each year.
- Survival rates are improving every day due to new treatments that are being developed!
- Targeted treatments provide hope to patients by more effectively treating their specific type of tumor.
- New immunotherapy treatments are on the horizon; this uses the body’s own cells to attack the cancer.
- Advancements in detection/screening programs.
People like my sister are depending on these advancements in science! You see, lung cancer, right now, has no cure. This is attributed to the fact that by the time it is discovered that a patient has the disease, it is already in the later stages. My sister had no symptoms at all – hers was discovered because she was at a routine eye appointment and the doctor saw something in her eye (turned out it was a tumor). Because there is no cure, her type of lung cancer is treated more like a chronic illness.
At my sister’s latest appointment, she was told that her targeted treatment (basically a specialized radiation in pill form) was failing and that the tumor in her lung was returning. However, the tumors that were in other parts of her body were gone and that she was, really, in fantastic health! She was told that she needed to stay on the drug since it seemed to be working in all other parts of her body. We are now waiting for the tumor to form into something that can be biopsied. Why? So it can be tested and the next medication can be determined.
If it wasn’t her life that was literally depending on this, it would be amazingly fascinating! Well, it is amazingly fascinating, but also bizarre that we are sitting around waiting for a tumor to grow…
Also, the longer she can maintain her health on this medication, the better, because new medicines are being developed and approved so quickly.
The problem? Like the current medicine she is taking, the body will eventually form a resistance to the drug, which is why she has to stay healthy enough to keep up with the science.
What You Can Do To Help
- One of the easiest, non-committal ways that I help, to be honest, is by donating through the Amazon Smile Program. I choose to contribute to Lung Cancer Initiative of NC (which funds research and supports survivors here in NC). When you shop with Amazon Smile (and have attached a charity to your account), a small percentage of your purchase amount goes to the charity of your choice. I know it is a small amount, but it is better than nothing!
And with the amount I order online, it may actually add up to a lot…
- Donate! Giving Tuesday (the Tuesday after Thanksgiving) is a great time to donate to the cause!
- Wear a white ribbon – tell people about lung cancer. It is not just a smoker’s disease.
This post is not intended to suggest we de-fund or do not support other cancer awareness programs. It only intends to bring more awareness to the need of more Lung Cancer research and also help break the stigma attached to it that this is a “smoker’s disease.” This is not a sponsored post.
1Federal Trade Commission Cigarette Report for 2013. Federal Trade Commission (2016). Access Date: Nov. 2, 2016: https://www.ftc.gov/system/files/documents/reports/federal-trade-commission-cigarette-report-2013/2013cigaretterpt.pdf
And NIH Estimates of Funding for Various Research, Condition, and Disease Categories (RCDC). Access Date: Nov. 2, 2016: http://report.nih.gov/categorical_spending.aspx.