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November is lung cancer awareness month. It is useful to have a few statistics about lung cancer. Unfortunately, lung cancer remains the # 1 cancer problem in the world and in America over 160,000 people die yearly of lung cancer. Almost a third of all the cancer related deaths will be from lung cancer. The number of deaths from lung cancer is higher than the combined deaths of the 3 next most common cancers, colorectal, breast and prostate. Each day, approximately 433 people die the United States from lung cancer. That is the equivalent to a 747 airplane crashing every day and killing all on board, day after day, year after year.
Although breast cancer gets a lot of publicity, 2 times as many people die from lung cancer than breast cancer. The funding for lung cancer is also lower than it should be. For fiscal year 2015, the National Cancer Institute spent $ 4.9 billion dollars on research, only $256,000,000 (5.2%) went towards lung cancer research. The American Cancer Society of the $390,000,000 they spent on cancer only, $26,000,000 (6.6%).
The problem is there is a stigma associated with lung cancer. People think that it is caused from cigarette smoking, so victims deserve their disease. This is no longer true. Many lung cancers are caused by air pollution, radon exposure, second hand smoke or other causes that are unknown and not related to smoking. Lung cancer usually presents as a very advanced disease, with over 75 %of patients presenting with stage IV cancer. Unfortunately, the survival rate for a stage IV cancer is very low. If we could screen patients earlier and find a cancer in a curable stage we may be able to provide a surgical treatment that is known to be very successful with high cure rates.
Screening can be done by serial low-dose CT scans of the chest. There are also experimental techniques under development, including a blood test that looks for circulating tumor DNA or a breath test to detect volatile organic compounds that may indicate malignancy. Smoking cessation is a key factor in preventing lung cancer. If you smoke now, please stop. At Mayo Clinic we have an excellent smoking cessation Clinic and screening program if you are interested in either of these please contact us and we can arrange it.
Statistics provided by The Bonnie J. Addario Lung cancer Foundation (ALCF)
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