Bringing Lung Cancer Out of the Shadows

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If asked what cancer is the leading cause of death among men and women today, the likely response from most women would be breast cancer. The likely response from most men would be prostate cancer. Yet the real answer is lung cancer, and it is and will continue to be the leading cause of cancer death among men and women today, tomorrow and for decades to come. Why is this extraordinary and devastating fact not known? Because lung cancer is the most stigmatized, misunderstood and ignored cancer of all.

While it may be easy for society to blame lung cancer on smoking, the reality today is that 80 percent of new lung cancer cases inflict people who either have never smoked or have quit smoking, most decades ago. It is taking more lives each year than breast, prostate, colon and pancreatic cancers combined. Lung cancer has a very low five year survival rate of only 15 percent. Nobody deserves lung cancer, whatever the cause, and we must do more to combat this devastating disease.

Success lies in approaching lung cancer comprehensively, just as we do other major illness. Prevention and wellness coupled with early detection and treatment options must be adequately funded and coordinated. Isn’t that how we approach heart disease? Breast cancer? HIV/AIDS? Why should lung cancer be held to a different standard?

Fortunately, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators and congressional representatives have recognized that lung cancer can no longer be ignored and have developed national legislation called the Lung Cancer Mortality Reduction Act.

This Act would establish a comprehensive approach that requires federal health agencies to coordinate, provides new resources and tools to health agencies, supports early detection and treatment and creates programs to combat lung cancer in vulnerable populations including veterans, minorities the poor and women.

My mother-in-law passed away from lung cancer almost three years ago at the young age of 50 with her first grandchild due to be born three weeks later. My fight to bring light on this issue is a continuation of her fight.
I traveled to Washington, D.C. this past January to meet with our congressional leaders along with Lung Cancer Alliance. We presented the Act and the most recent statistics to show them that it is time something is put in place. I am so happy to report that Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley has co-sponsored the Lung Cancer Mortality Act.

Last November, Salem Cancer Institute and I partnered with the First Wednesday events in Salem. We held the first Shine a Light on Lung Cancer Vigil in Oregon. Our goal is to try to bring awareness to the community. Dr William Pierce, Oncologist, was our primary speaker along with personal stories, and this November, I am again working with Salem Cancer Institute to host the second Lung Cancer Vigil in Salem.

Nobody can breathe easy while the disease of lung cancer continues to strike our fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, neighbors and friends. Let us all breathe new life into the effort to fight lung cancer by contacting our congressional representatives and asking them to become sponsors of the Lung Cancer Mortality Reduction Act of 2011.

Lindgren can be reached for comment at Troy.l@comcast.net, 503-508-9569.

Oregon Lung Cancer Statistics

An estimated 7,510 people in Oregon will die from cancer in 2010. Approximately, one in four will be lung cancer, more than breast, prostate and colon cancers combined.
All Cancers:              7,510
Lung:                    2,100
Breast:                          490
Colon:                           690
Prostate:                       430

The lethality of lung cancer is apparent in the mortality rates.
National Death Rates/100,000 persons (2002-2006):

Male        Female        
Lung:        70.5        40.9            
Breast:    —–        24.5            
Prostate:    25.6        —–
Colon:        21.9        15.4

The under funding of research and early detection for lung cancer is reflected in a comparison of five year survival rates.

Lung:        16%
Breast:    89%
Prostate:    99.9%
Colon:        65%

Statistics:  1. Altekruse SF, Kosary CL, Krapcho M, Neyman N, Aminou R, Waldron W, Ruhl J, Howlader N, Tatalovich Z, Cho H, Mariotto A, Eisner MP, Lewis DR, Cronin K, Chen HS, Feuer EJ, Stinchcomb DG, Edwards BK (eds). SEER Cancer Statistics Review, 1975-2007, National Cancer Institute. Bethesda, MD,http://seer.cancer.gov/csr/1975_2007/, based on November 2009 SEER data submission, posted to the SEER web site, 2010.
2. U.S. Mortality Data 2002-2006, National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2009

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