The # 1 KILLER of Women, is Not What You Think
Lung Cancer is the leading cause of Cancer related deaths for women in the United States today. Once thought of as a disease of smokers, according to Dr. Subroto Paul, Director of Thoracic Surgery at RWJBarnabas Health and Clinical Professor of Surgery at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, “Up to twenty percent of women who develop lung cancer have never touched a cigarette. Women treated with radiation therapy for breast cancer (or lymphoma), are also at greater risk for developing lung cancer.”
Looking to shine light on this brutal disease that claims the lives of so many women, the American Lung Association launched the LUNG FORCE campaign in May 2014. Deb Brown, President and CEO of the American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic shared with us, the focus of LUNG FORCE is to “Increase women’s awareness of Lung Cancer as their No. 1 cancer killer, to educate and empower patients and healthcare providers, and raise critical funds for lung cancer research, ultimately saving lives. “
Similar to other aggressive Cancers, treatment for Lung Cancer is most successful when caught early. High risk populations especially, have higher survival rates when the disease is caught and treated at an earlier stage, versus later in the disease progression when treatment options are limited. According to Brown, high risk individuals are “persons who are 55-80 years of age, have a 30 pack-year history of smoking (this means 1 pack a day for 30 years, 2 packs a day for 15 years, etc.) and, are a current smoker, or have quit within the last 15 years.” Individuals that fit into these populations should speak with their physician and insurer about the availability of conducting preliminary scans, for early stage warning signs.
Brown went on to say, “It’s important to note that anyone can get lung cancer. Although smoking is the number one cause of lung cancer, other causes include exposure to Radon, hazardous chemicals and other particle pollution.” Knowing these truths, The American Lung Association offers several programs that bring awareness to their causes. A program called Freedom From Smoking ®, is one such program, proven to have helped hundreds of thousands of participants quit smoking for good and Fight For Our Air Climbing events highlight the importance and necessity of clean air to the health of our nation.
The New Jersey chapter is even working with government officials to address the issues of tobacco use and prevention, by advocating for an increase the tobacco tax and to create tax parity between the tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products, to include electronic cigarettes; secure state tobacco prevention and cessation funding; and to increase the minimum age of sale for tobacco products to 21.
Although the staggering statistics tell a grim tale, when we asked Dr. Paul about the outlook for Lung Cancer patients and their families he told us, “There is hope! The past five years have seen significant gains in the treatment of lung cancer: from chest CT screening, to the increased use of minimally-invasive surgery, to the development of new targeted therapies to immunotherapy. All these developments have improved the lives and survival of patients with lung cancer.”
Knowing testing and developments in new therapies all take funding; the American Lung Association in New Jersey is promoting National Women’s Lung Health Week this May.
National Women’s Lung Health Week is an annual event, focused on bringing awareness and sharing the voice of the victims and those fighting the disease. Turquoise Takeover is the theme to which the association connects with members in the communities they serve to help raise awareness of lung cancer in women. They ask that businesses and landmarks turn their signature turquoise color. Groups can also decide to make a donation and turn their social media profiles turquoise using the hashtag #TurquoiseTakeOver to show and share their support with friends and family members.
If you or someone you care about is affected by this disease, there are so many ways to get involved and help bring awareness to Lung Cancer. Call the LUNG HELPLINE 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872), Visit www.lung.org, follow the ALA on Facebook and Twitter: @AmericanLungNJ or on Instagram @LungMidAtlantic. Or participate in one of the LUNG FORCE Expos or Walks held throughout the country.