(NEWS10) — It is the deadliest cancer for both men and women here in the United States. More than breast, colon, pancreatic and prostate combined, but awareness is critically low.
That’s because for years, it has been surrounded by a stigma that it’s self-inflicted, and while studies show that smokers do make up for a high percentage of those who suffer from the disease, anyone with lungs can get lung cancer.
“400 people die every day from lung cancer and someone is diagnosed every two and a half minutes here in the United States,” said Kristina Wieneke from the American Lung Association.
If you think you have to smoke to get it, think again.
“Today alone, people from all over the country will leave their doctors office, never having smoked a day in their life, and leave confused and devastated to learn they have lung cancer,” Wieneke said.
There are a number of other causes that someone could be exposed to on a daily basis without even realizing it; Such as asbestos in the building you work in, radon in the home you live in, and the tasteless, odorless gases can rise from soil in the ground and seep through cracks in walls, basement floors. You wouldn’t know unless you had your home tested for it, and of course, second-hand smoke.
Did you also know there’s such a thing as third-hand smoke? It’s the residue that settles from the smoke in the air left behind on door knobs, tables, counters and floors.
“Often in our lives we have no idea what we’re being exposed to,” Wieneke said. “That’s why we drive home the point that anyone with lungs can get lung cancer. The more people are aware of that, the more empowered they are to take actions.”
If these factors aren’t on your radar, you’re likely not asking your doctor the right questions, which is why they are finding more and more that the majority of those diagnosed are finding out too late.
“So about 77 percent of people find out that they have lung cancer in the latest stages at which point of course, survival rates are incredibly low,” Wieneke said. “If you find out in earlier stages, survival rates triple.”
In order to develop the necessary science and technologies to advance the screening process and help improve early detection, funding is critical. Those with the American Lung Association say the shortage there, goes back to the overall lack of awareness.
“Particularly because lung cancer was so under researched for such a long time, both related to the stigmatization, but also the lack of understanding, even today about some of the triggers,” Wieneke said.
So again, the month of November is meant to remind us all to take into consideration what we’ve been exposed to, and have those conversations with your doctor. Screenings for those considered to be high-risk candidates are covered by most insurance companies.