We All Have Plenty to Learn about Lung Cancer Awareness
We recognize the threats of lung cancer in November, which is National Lung Cancer Awareness Month. Months that recognize various illnesses often are noted with a color – such as pink for October’s breast-cancer awareness theme.
The official color of lung cancer awareness is clear, which is somewhat fitting, as this disease, many say, might as well be invisible to most Americans.
It’s because of the stigma attached to this disease, one that patients of other cancers rarely face. As Americans, we hope we can put aside our misconceptions or prejudices aside and know the facts about lung cancer.
There’s a huge one – and we can all be guilty of making the mistake.
If you turned to your friends and mentioned you had a loved one who was diagnosed with lung cancer, the first response is almost always the same.
“He or she must smoke,” the common, incorrect thinking goes. “They must have brought this on themselves …”
Most other type of cancer diagnosis will elicit sympathy or empathy. There’s little stigma attached when we hear of colon, breast or prostate cancer.
The Myth of Self-Infliction
Anyone who breathes can get lung cancer. While smoking is a cause, it’s not the only one, and this cultural feeling we have – that lung cancer patients should somehow be held liable for their cancer diagnosis – is unfortunately, and often, the only notion people have about this disease.
But the facts are concrete, if lesser known:
- Lung cancer is diagnosed in people who have never smoked.
- Lung cancer is diagnosed in former smokers who quit several decades ago.
- Lung cancer is diagnosed in children as well as adults.
Those of us who fight cancer daily hope you’ll stop and realize the truth behind these facts, because there is good news on the horizon, but reducing stigma is part of the work you can help make reality.
A Coming Shift
Researchers are on the verge of a seismic shift in our ability to diagnose and treat lung cancer. To get to that shift, those efforts need more funding desperately; these promising new therapies will only come to be if we continue to shelve the stigma and continue to fund the efforts to eliminate lung cancer. People who are ages 50-80 should talk to their doctor about screening exams.
Each year, this disease takes more lives each year than breast, colon and prostate cancers combined, yet lung cancer is one of the lower funded of all cancer research.
You can help by spreading the word about the need for lung cancer research and awareness to friends and family.
By rejecting the tendency to blame lung cancer patients for their disease, you can help lift the weight of stigma and guilt that for some can be as bad as the cancer itself. Help by spreading the word about the need for lung-cancer research and awareness to friends and family.
Lung cancer is one of the most-common cancers in our region and it is important to all who face it that they realize we are one community, and we’re fighting it together as one.