While ribbons and races are a great way to show support for those living with or impacted by lung cancer, the true goal is to encourage people to learn everything they can about the disease that kills more people in the U.S. than any other cancer. The more knowledge we gain, the more likely we are to save lives. Here’s what people need to know before they need to know it.
In just the past several years, the work of the GO2 Foundation for Lung Cancer, our partners in research, and other lung cancer advocates has led to rapid and phenomenal breakthroughs in lung cancer screening, detection, and treatments.
From safer and more widely available screening, to genomic testing that allows for more effective treatment, to immunotherapy that helps patients’ bodies fight their own cancer, the lung cancer community has been leading the way in cancer innovation.
Non-smokers can get lung cancer
Most people who have never smoked probably don’t think they are at risk for lung cancer. After all, smoking is a primary driver of lung cancer risk. While not smoking or quitting smoking can prevent lung cancer, the statistics show smoking isn’t the crux of the issue – not even a little bit. In fact, of the men and women with lung cancer, almost 20 percent never smoked, and of that percentage, two-thirds are women.
Because lung cancer often doesn’t present symptoms until the disease is advanced, it’s important for those at risk to talk to their doctor about screening. Early diagnosis of any disease gives patients and doctors the best chance at treating and even curing an illness. It should be no different for lung cancer. The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommends screening for people who are between 55 and 80 years old who have quit smoking in the last 15 years or who are currently smoking.
Every person’s cancer is different, but the good news about lung cancer treatment is that we are now entering the era of personalized medicine. There are many different types of lung cancer, and biomarker testing looks for biological changes in genes or proteins, like EGFR or ALK. By identifying specific gene mutations, oncologists can determine which treatments will work best and offer the patient an incredibly customized treatment regimen. One-size-fits-all treatment for lung cancer is a thing of the past.
More research is needed
Although lung cancer takes more lives each year than breast, colorectal, and prostate cancer combined and kills more women than any other disease, it receives significantly less cancer research funding. This must change. While breakthroughs in biomarker testing through GO2 Foundation-supported research and treatments like immunotherapy are gaining some ground against the disease, we need far more research and funding if we ever want to achieve our goal of transforming what it means to live with lung cancer and to find cures.
One proposal to help us achieve this goal is the Women and Lung Cancer Research and Preventive Services Act of 2019, now pending in Congress. This bipartisan and bicameral legislation brings a much-needed priority focus to accelerating research and screening services for women disproportionately impacted by lung cancer.
We encourage everyone to walk that walk or run that run to raise funds to fight lung cancer. But the most important action we can take is to educate ourselves and others about who is at risk, the treatments and support available, and the need for more research funding. To learn more about lung cancer diagnosis, treatments, and support, please visit www.go2foundation.org.