Survey Shows Public to be Embarrassingly Ignorant about Lung Cancer

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Earlier today, two panels of renowned lung cancer experts, advocates and survivors discussed recent breakthroughs in lung cancer screening and the progress and hope gained through scientific breakthroughs, research funding and patient advocacy.

During the meeting, part of the National Lung Cancer Awareness Month Kickoff, results of a national survey were released highlighting Americans’ lack of awareness about lung cancer, the number one cancer killer of both men and women.

“We surveyed [more than] 2,000 adults to gauge their knowledge about lung cancer,”  said Dusty Donaldson, of the Lung Cancer Action Network. “We expected to see a lack of public awareness about lung cancer, however, [what we noticed was that the] level of public ignorance about this disease is simply stunning.”


Every day, 422 Americans die from lung cancer while every hour, 27 people are diagnosed with the disease…


Worse than breast cancer
Lung cancer kills nearly twice as many women as breast cancer and nearly three times as many men as prostate cancer. In fact, lung cancer claims more lives than the next three cancers combined (colon, breast and pancreatic). For too long, those with lung cancer have not been aware of screening and have been shunned by the stigma of lung cancer. Several advocacy organizations, cancer survivors and experts came together in the nation’s capital today to take a stand and draw attention to an often ignored and misunderstood disease.

Photo 1.0: Dusty Donaldson of the Lung Cancer Action Network. Donaldson was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2005, at the age of 51. She underwent surgery to remove two lobes from her right lung, followed by adjuvant chemotherapy. She completed treatment within six months of her diagnosis and has been out of treatment since March 2006. In 2016, Dusty co-authored the book The ABCs of Lung Cancer: for Patients and Advocates with her daughter, Kimberly Lester.

Number one
“We don’t want to be number one,” says lung cancer survivor Dusty Donaldson of the Lung Cancer Action Network, “but [unfortunately,] we are. And, yet, even though we are the number one cancer killer in the United States and worldwide — of both men and women — the public is embarrassingly ignorant about this disease,” Donaldson explained.

Results of the “Know Your Cancer” national survey of 2,026 adults in the U.S. were released at the National Press Club in Washington, DC today at the Lung Cancer Awareness Month Kickoff & Panel Discussions. Additionally, two panels of renowned experts, advocates and survivors addressed—from historical and forward-looking perspectives—lung cancer advocacy and scientific breakthroughs.

The survey revealed that the public is utterly misinformed about lung cancer. Some of the survey highlights show:

  • Ninety-four percent of respondents were unaware that lung cancer is the number one cancer killer of women. Overall, seventy-one percent of the respondents incorrectly believed that breast cancer is the number one cancer killer of women. In fact, lung cancer kills nearly twice as many women as breast cancer. [1]
  • Approximately 86% of respondents were unaware that lung cancer is the number one cancer killer of men. Sixty-two percent incorrectly believed prostate cancer is the number one cancer killer of men. However, lung cancer kills nearly three times as many men as prostate cancer.[2]
  • Approximately 88% of respondents were unaware that radon is the number two cause of lung cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute (NIH), scientists estimate that 15,000 to 22,000 lung cancer deaths in the United States each year are related to radon.[3]
  • Eighty-seven percent of respondents were unaware that most lung cancer diagnoses are in people who are former smokers or never smoked. [4]

For far too long, people at risk for lung cancer have been unaware of screening and shunned by the stigma of lung cancer.

“Yes, the reality of this disease is harsh,” Donaldson said. “However, thanks to research, we now have more tools than ever to catch it early and treat it more effectively. Those at high risk need to know that screening is available. Our message is hope,” she added.

Lung cancer facts
The fact about lung cancer is that it is the third most common cancer and the leading cause of cancer-related death in both men and women in the United States. According to the latest statistics, approximately 154,000 Americans are expected to die from lung cancer in 2018. Looking at statistics also shows that over the past 39 years the rate of new lung cancer cases has fallen 32% among men while increasing 94% among women.[5]

While the most important risk factor for lung cancer is smoking, resulting in approximately 85% of all U.S. lung cancer cases – the incidence among of lung cancer in non-smokers and never smokers is rising. Furthermore, the incidence of lung cancer increases with age and occurs most commonly in persons aged 55 years or older. Finally,increasing age and cumulative exposure to tobacco smoke are among the 2 most common risk factors for lung cancer.

Other facts:

  • Radon causes about 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year, making it the second leading cause of lung cancer death.[6]
  • Lung cancer has the lowest 5-year survival rate of the other most common cancers: only 18%, compared to prostate at 99%, breast at 90% and colorectal at 65%.
  • When detected early, the five-year survival rate for lung cancer is 55%.
  • Early detection, by low dose CT screening, can decrease lung cancer mortality between 14-61% in high-risk populations.[7]

Anyone can get Lung Cancer
The purpose of the event was to inform the public that anyone can get lung cancer, share recent promising scientific advancements, underscore hope and diminish the stigma of lung cancer.

Reference
[1] Cancer Stat Facts: Cancer of Any Site, National Cancer Institute, SEER Cancer Statistics. Online. Last accessed November 1, 2018
[2] Estimated New Cancer Cases and Deaths for 2018, SEER Cancer Statistics Online. Last accessed November 1, 2018
[3] Radon and Cancer, National Cancer Institute Online (NIH). Online. Last accessed November 1, 2018
[4] Out of the Shadows: Women and Lung Cancer, Harvard Medical School & Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Online. Last accessed November 1, 2018
[5] National Cancer Institute, Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program, Statistics at a Glance, Online. Last accessed November 1, 2018
[6] Radon and Cancer, National Cancer Institute. Last accessed November 1, 2018
[7] Based on the U.S. National Lung Screening Trial (NLST) and the European NELSON Lung Cancer Screening Study, announced September 25, 2018  Online. Last accessed November 1, 2018


Last Editorial Review: November 1, 2018 | Last Update: November 18, 2018

Featured Image: Doctor on back of x-ray image of human lungs. Courtesy: © 2018 Fotolia. Used with permission. Photo 1.0: Dusty Donaldson of the Lung Cancer Action Network. Donaldson was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2005, at the age of 51. She underwent surgery to remove two lobes from her right lung, followed by adjuvant chemotherapy. She completed treatment within six months of her diagnosis and has been out of treatment since March 2006. In 2016, Dusty co-authored the book The ABCs of Lung Cancer: for Patients and Advocates with her daughter, Kimberly Lester.  Courtesy: © 2018 International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC). Used with permission.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. I noticed some grammatical errors in this article. Specifically in the second paragraph. “… results of a national survey will be releases …” both subject/verb agreement, and also this should be in past tense, if it has already happened. Also, why do so many quotes have brackets? These should be used only when the speaker’s quote could be misunderstood on its own, and that doesn’t seem to be the case here. Other than that, great article, thanks for sharing this important survey information.

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