November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month making now the perfect time to speak out about lung cancer risks and small things we can do year round to educate people and save lives.
I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to take part in multiple initiatives in Charleston, S.C., to help raise awareness about lung cancers and other related diseases. Recently, our firm sponsored MUSC Hollings Cancer Center’s Shine a Light on Lung Cancer event, which is part of a national campaign by the Lung Cancer Alliance to raise money to help fund medical treatment for lung cancer patients, support and care, and research, while educating the public on risk, screening and treatment options. The local event featured doctors, current and former patients and other medical professionals, and was an inspiration for all who attended and a testament to the great improvements in medicine used to treat lung cancer and other lung diseases.
Another local fundraiser I was honored to help bring to life was the S.C. American Lung Association’s Lip Sync for Lungs Battle. The benefit included a live competition with local “celebrities,” who shared personal stories about lung cancer’s impact in order to raise awareness and money. The funds went directly to local clean air initiatives and lung cancer treatment centers in the Charleston area. As the reigning champ of the annual battle, I was asked to judge the competition in September. It was both inspiring and humbling to watch as courageous members of our community shared such personal stories of not only loss, but triumph. Thanks to all involved and those who took time out of their day to attend or provide a donation, we succeeded in reaching our fundraising goal, allowing the ALA to further its mission and raise awareness.
Common themes of both events were everyday risk factors, treatment options and the significantly elevated chances of recovery when cancers are caught early. In fact, survival rates are five times higher when lung cancer is detected during the initial stages. However, currently only 16 percent of lung cancer cases are diagnosed early. If you or a loved one are at high risk of developing lung cancer, taking preventative actions may increase your chances of catching the disease early.
Are you part of the high risk population?
The ALA estimates that 8.6 million Americans qualify as high risk for lung cancer and are recommended to receive annual screenings with low-dose CT scans.
According to the ALA, a person is considered high risk for lung cancer if they:
Are between 55 and 80 years old
Have a 30 pack-year history of smoking (one pack a day for 30 years, or two packs a day for 15 years)
Are a current smoker, or have quit within the last 15 years
Saved by the Scan
The ALA launched Saved by the Scan, a campaign to raise awareness about the importance of early detection, while sharing useful information to make sure those who are high risk are getting the preventive care they need. Currently, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related death in men and women, and shockingly more people die from lung cancers than colon, breast and prostate cancers combined. The American Cancer Society estimates about 222,500 new cases of lung cancer will be diagnosed, and about 155,870 people will die from lung cancer in 2017 alone. In order to turn those numbers around, the Saved by the Scan campaign is targeting former smokers who are high risk but often times don’t view themselves that way. In reality, smokers and former smokers make up half of the high-risk population.
The ALA believes that if half of high risk individuals took initiative to get screened, more than 13,000 lung cancer deaths could be prevented.
The importance of early detection made headlines earlier this year when Larry King revealed he had stage 1 lung cancer. The popular television and radio host credited his quick battle and recovery to early detection.
“I had no clue at all," King said of his diagnosis. "If I had not had the chest X-ray, it would have progressed.”
King added that he smoked up to three packs a day for 30 years, even smoking in the shower. His story and speedy recovery highlights how early detection of lung cancer can save lives of even the most high risk of people.
Spreading awareness is such a simple way to make sure you and your loved ones are taking steps to increase chances of survival. In honor of lung cancer awareness month, I encourage you to be proactive about your health and consider donating to a lung cancer fund raiser, or simply spreading the word so that we can continue to make strides toward improving survival rates, funding research, and outreach efforts.