Worldwide, approximately 1.3 million people will die of lung cancer every year, making it the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women. In the United States alone, some 215,020 new cases of lung cancer are reported annually.
To get a better grip on this devastating disease, take a look at the following facts and figures:
- More women will die of lung cancer than of breast cancer and all gynecological malignancies combined.
- Former smokers represent more than 50% of new lung cancer cases.
- Lung cancer is responsible for more than 25% of all cancer death in the United States. Approximately 160,000 people will die of lung cancer in the U.S. every year.
- More people will die of lung cancer than from prostate, breast, and colon cancers combined.
The Hurdles We Face
Lung cancer has not received the same media and financial attention that it rightfully deserves. Since lung cancer’s foremost risk factor is the use of tobacco, many people shrug this disease off as a totally “preventable” condition. In reality, about 15% of lung cancer cases are not tobacco related.
Compare the National Cancer Institute’s funding of lung cancer to its funding of breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and prostate cancer:
- Lung Cancer Deaths: 160,390
- Lung Cancer Funding per Death: $1,415
- Breast Cancer Deaths: 40,910
- Breast Cancer Funding per Death: $13,991
- Colorectal Cancer Deaths: 52,180
- Colorectal Cancer Funding per Death: $4,952
- Prostate Cancer Deaths: 27,080
- Prostate Cancer Funding per Death: $10,945
A lack of proper funding in addition to the fact that most lung cancers are diagnosed in late-stage development has turned this disease into a “national crisis” 1-2. Furthermore, due to the lack of funding for lung cancer, fewer and fewer physicians and scientists are entering lung cancer related fields.
What can we do to stimulate progress in the field of lung cancer research? Start out by getting educated. Learn as much as you can about this terrible disease: learn how to minimize your risk factors, learn what to symptoms to look out for, and learn about screening tests and other preventative measures.
Visit the following organizations and see what they have to say:
- National Lung cancer Partnership
- Lung Cancer Research Foundation
- National Cancer Institute – Lung Cancer
Next, talk to your friends and family members about not using tobacco. There are a variety of therapies, social networks, and medicines available to help people quit smoking and/or chewing tobacco. As always, encourage your loved ones to talk to a medical professional about the best way to quit.
If you are financially able, lung cancer is a worthwhile place to focus your philanthropic efforts. Government organizations, large universities, pharmaceutical companies, and hospitals can’t and shouldn’t bear the burden of lung cancer research alone. We are all valuable assets in the battle against lung cancer.
What’s Being Done Now?
Despite lung cancer’s lack of funding, the hard work of devoted researchers, physicians, and patients has led to a variety of breakthroughs in our awareness and management of this disease.
A Chinese research group examined some 71,391 female lung cancer patients who were non-smokers. Their findings indicated that women with two or more close relatives who had cancer were two times as likely to develop lung cancer. A woman’s lung cancer risk is especially elevated if she has a family history of pancreatic cancer. This research further illustrates that lung cancer is not just a “smoker’s disease,” and it also underscores the importance of regular cancer screenings if you have a family history of cancer.
Researchers at the Hutchinson Center have concluded that current and former smokers can reduce their cancer risk by exercising more.
Video-Assisted Thoracic Surgery (VATS)
Physicians at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance have developed a new surgery to remove lung tumors. This method, known as video-assisted thoracic surgery, involves the insertion of a small cameral into the lungs via a millimeter-long incision. Other instruments can be inserted through the incision, allowing the physician to operate on the lung tumors without having to perform open-chest procedures.
Researchers at Jafary Medical Clinics have shown that the use of certain herbal therapies may help control symptoms in patients with late-stage lung cancers. The following herbal supplements may help improve the quality of life for a patient that does not respond well to conventional treatments:
- American Ginseng: May help improve feelings of fatigue.
- Licorice Root: May help control severe coughing.
- Morphine Sulfate: May help control severe pain.
The use of licorice root and American ginseng to control symptoms produced encouragingly consistent results. Most patients responded well to these therapies.
- Rosenberg, L., Physician-scientists–endangered and essential. Science, 1999. 283(5400): p. 331-2.
- Thompson, J.N. and J. Moskowitz, Preventing the extinction of the clinical research ecosystem [published erratum appears in JAMA 1997 aug 6;278(5):388] [see comments]. JAMA, 1997. 278(3): p. 241-5.