Organize for Success® Turns 10
On September 5, 2008, my father was diagnosed with lung cancer, and my analytical brain immediately jumped online to figure out what this meant; I was shocked by the statistics related to this terrible disease. Today, we'll discuss what I view as the top 10 most powerful (and potentially shocking) lung cancer facts:
10. Over 200,000 Americans are diagnosed with lung cancer each year, over 7,800 of which are here in my home state of North Carolina; with that, 1 in every 3 Americans is touched by lung cancer, whether diagnosed themselves or knowing a patient.
9. Lung cancer is the top cancer-killer of both women and men in America. Lung cancer takes more lives annually (nearly 160,000) than the next top three types of cancer combined: colorectal cancer with 50,260 deaths a year, breast cancer with 40,610 deaths a year, pancreatic cancer with 43,090 deaths a year. Lung cancer's impact is far-reaching. This disease takes the lives of almost twice as many women when compared with breast cancer as well as the lives of more than three times as many men when compared with prostate cancer.
8. Only 18% of those diagnosed with lung cancer will survive 5 years or longer, compared with 99% for prostate cancer, 90% for breast cancer and 65% for colorectal cancer. If lung cancer researchers could replicate the successes of increasing survival at the rate breast cancer researchers have over the past 30 years, increasing survival rates by at least 14%, over 30,000 more people would survive each year... 30,000 mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters and sons to spend more valuable moments with their loved ones.
7. Only 16% of people will be diagnosed with lung cancer while the disease is still in its earliest stage. As the disease is most treatable at this point, earlier diagnoses could save more lives. Screening enables earlier diagnosis for any type of cancer, but the single recommended screening test for lung cancer is low-dose CT scan, which is approved for only adults aged 55 to 80 years who have a 30 pack-year smoking history and currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years.
6. Beyond simply smoking, the many causes of lung cancer include asbestos fibers, radon gas, family predisposition, lung diseases and air pollution. Plus, there are initial research findings that some of the treatments for viruses we had as children make us more susceptible to lung cancer as adults.
5. Treatment of lung cancer is no longer limited to only chemotherapy. There are many advancements to surgery options, including robotic-assisted thoracic surgery. Radiation therapy targets the specific location of the lung cancer tumor. Targeted drug therapy offers pills that work in people whose lung cancer cells have certain genetic mutations. Further, clinical trials are studies of experimental lung cancer treatments, including immunotherapy, which activates a patient's white blood cells to fight off the disease themselves. These advancements are helping, but there is still a great deal of work to be done.
4. Although lung cancer takes more lives than any other cancer, funding for lung cancer research lags significantly behind. Lung cancer research receives $2,208 in federal funding per death while colorectal cancer gets $6,271, prostate cancer gets $14,488 and breast cancer gets $16,728. Money is needed to run the labs that will advance further in diagnosis and treatment options.
3. The official color for lung cancer is pearl, white or clear because it's a "silent killer". It is not talked about like other diseases, there's no buzz around it, there are few if any symptoms until lung cancer has spread, and most people are unclear about its details, even though it touches so many lives each year.
2. A good acronym to remember the symptoms of lung cancer is BREATHE: Blood in cough, Recurring respiratory infections, Enduring cough that is new or different, Ache or pain in shoulder, back or chest, Trouble breathing, Hoarseness or wheezing and Exhaustion or weakness.
1. If you have lungs, you can get lung cancer. While 30-35% of people are current smokers when diagnosed with lung cancer, 50% have quit smoking (many of whom quit decades before) and 15-20% of people diagnosed with lung cancer have never smoked. Further, the fastest growing demographic for new lung cancer diagnoses are women in their 30s, 40s and 50s who have never smoked. There is a stigma surrounding a lung cancer diagnosis, where people believe all lung cancer is caused by smoking and patients do this to themselves. As mentioned above, there are many causes, and, no matter which leads to your disease, no one deserves to be sick. Be aware of changes to your body, and be persistent in pursuing the reason for your symptoms.
Were you surprised by any of these facts? Have you been impacted by this disease, either personally or by someone about which you care being diagnosed?
I could not take away the pain and suffering of my father and my maternal great aunt, both of whom passed away from lung cancer, but I am currently working diligently to help others as well as fund work to battle this dreadful disease. If you'd like to help these efforts, please learn more about the Lung Cancer Initiative, whose mission is "to save lives and provide support to those affected by lung cancer through research, awareness, education and access programs across North Carolina". Together, we can empower those affected by lung cancer to live longer, better lives!
* Unless otherwise noted, all lung cancer facts are from the LungCAN (Lung Cancer Action Network) statistic guide.