Why Lung Cancer is Sick of Pink

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Lung Cancer. It is a disease that is a deadly, silent killer mainly because it is misunderstood. Everywhere you look in the month of October you will see pink ribbons and national callout campaigns to help breast cancer research, (i.e., the National Football League™). However, once lung cancer awareness month (November) rolls around it all seems to slow down again. Lung cancer finds itself asking, “Where are the white ribbons and towels?”

Seemingly, lung cancer can often be overlooked because of the unfair and misunderstood stigma associated with it. People tend to be less sympathetic, because of the assumption that if you have lung cancer, you probably brought it on yourself.  Many people feel that lung cancer is a “smoker’s disease,” and while smoking does contribute to lung cancer deaths, a person can get lung cancer from exposure to second-hand smoke, air pollution, radon, asbestos and other occupational hazards.

According to the National Cancer Institute, nearly 160,000 people will pass away from lung cancer in 2013 making lung cancer the cause of more deaths than colon, breast and prostate cancers combined. And yet, less than $1,500 per death will be committed to lung cancer research compared to the more than $20,000 per death for breast cancer.

This fact is not widely known because lung cancer doesn’t get the resources or world-wide exposure, like other cancers. The inequality in funding has kept the five-year survival rate for lung cancer at 15 percent over the past 40 years while the rate for breast cancer and prostate cancer survival has reached nearly 90 percent.

This inequality of funding is one of the contributing factors in lung cancer not being diagnosed at an earlier stage. Each year, more than 219,000 new lung cancer cases are diagnosed, but sadly only 16 percent (35,040 cases) of lung cancers are diagnosed at an early, more manageable stage – making many diagnoses harder to cure. More funding could help researchers develop tools needed to diagnose patients sooner. 

Long Beach Memorial has developed an Early Lung Cancer Detection Program, where a 320 CT Scan is issued rather than a chest X-ray — allowing images of the lungs to be 100 times more accurate at finding lung cancer than a chest X-ray — giving doctors the ability to detect lung cancer at earlier stages, before it is too late. 

Long Beach Memorial knows that more needs to be done to increase lung cancer survivorship and raise awareness. For every one person that is aware, and for every additional dollar raised, the Long Beach community can combat this deadly disease.

The MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute (TCI) at Long Beach Memorial is helping to “clear the air” about lung cancer, and will  host  Long Beach’s “Shine a Light on Lung Cancer” event at the Todd Cancer Pavilion on Sunday, November 3 at 4 p.m. The event will help raise awareness and provide a voice for millions impacted by lung cancer, including lung cancer survivors and those who are remembering loved ones. Join TCI as it brings this disease out of the shadows and ignite a national dialogue.