Guest Post by Allison Moroni, American Lung Association ***
The Facts, New Screening Guidelines, and How You Can Help Change the Lung Cancer Landscape
We recognize the pink ribbon for breast cancer and the red dress for women’s heart health. Yet lung cancer, as the leading cancer killer among men and women, takes the lives of more than 150,000 people each year- more than colon, breast and prostate cancers combined- and in 1987 surpassed breast cancer as the leading cause of cancer deaths in women. In the past 35 years, lung cancer rates have increased a dramatic 116 percent in women.
But there’s a good chance you can’t recall a ribbon or symbol for it. And at the American Lung Association, we’re hoping to change that.
This month we officially launched LUNG FORCE, an inspiring national initiative to bring women together with a collective determination to lead the fight against lung cancer and for women’s lung health. LUNG FORCE will help raise money for more research, encourage men and women at risk to get a CT screen, and educate the medical community about the new guidelines for early lung cancer detection. With more funding allocated for research and more at-risk Americans getting screened, we can save thousands of lives.
We’re engaged in this cause because the lung cancer five-year survival rate is a dismal 16.3 percent- considerably lower than many other leading cancers including breast (90 percent), colon (65.2 percent) and prostate (99.9 percent). Tragically, more than half of those with lung cancer die within one year of diagnosis, due to the cancer frequently being found in its most lethal later stages. Currently only 15 percent of lung cancer is detected in more treatable stages, mainly because the disease presents few symptoms.
If symptoms are present, they can include:
- A cough that doesn’t go away and gets worse over time
- Constant chest pain
- Shortness of breath, or wheezing
- Frequent lung infections, such as bronchitis or pneumonia
- Coughing up blood
Until recently there has been no widely accepted screening tool to detect lung cancer at an early stage. There is now growing consensus that an annual low-dose CT screening should be recommended for individuals at high risk for lung cancer, and the American Lung Association has created an online tool, found at LungCancerScreeningSavesLives.org, to help people determine if they meet the guidelines. It’s quick, with simple yes/no questions that lead to a recommendation for a low-dose CT scan or not based on your personal history and risk factors.
“Don’t forget that lung cancer can strike in those who have no risk factors, such as smoking, exposure to radon, second hand smoke, or a few occupational hazards,” says lung cancer specialist Steve Kirtland, MD. “Lung cancer can also occur in women who lead healthy and active lifestyles.”
We encourage all women to contact their primary care physician if they find themselves short of breath in an activity that used to be easy, or have any of the symptoms listed above.
Allison Moroni, MA, CHES, is the Lung Health Manager at the American Lung Association of the Mountain Pacific. The American Lung Association is taking lung cancer out of the shadows and into the spotlight. If you are a lung cancer patient or survivor (male or female), or lost a loved one to lung cancer, and want to join us in our fight to get lung cancer the attention and research funding necessary to save more lives, contact Allison Moroni at email@example.com or (206) 512-3294.