The Lung Cancer Epidemic

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the American population and the western world. Lung cancer use to be the leading cause of cancer deaths in American men only, but since 1988, women have caught up with men and since then lung cancer is leading cause of cancer deaths in women as well. Well over 170,000 cases of lung cancers are diagnosed in the United States each year. Very few fortunate ones get cured from this miserable disease. About 157,000 people die as the direct result of lung cancer.

The mortality related to lung cancer exceeds the combined mortality rates of second (breast cancer), third (prostate cancer), and fourth (colon cancer) leading causes of cancer death. How would we react if every day a Boing 747 crashes and all the passengers die? That’s what happens with lung cancer. About 430 people die every day from lung cancer.

Despite the high rates of cancer deaths, lung cancer receives much less attention compared to other cancers, especially breast cancer. Lung cancer research receives much less funding, and general public takes much less interest in lung cancer. Even though lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths among men and women, very little research and scientific progress occurs in the field of lung cancer.

It is estimated that about $1,723 per cancer deaths is spent on lung cancer research where as the corresponding figures for breast cancer ($13,953), prostate cancer ($10,318) and colorectal cancer (4,618) are much higher. It is interesting to note that the department of defense funds breast cancer, ovarian cancer and prostate cancer but not lung cancer.

Part of the problem associated with lung cancer research funding is the fact that, there are not many lung cancer survivors to lobby for the cause of lung cancer. High mortality rates associated with lung cancer leaves very few survivors to fight for their cause, and even those fortunate survivors are not in very good health, since most of these survivors are patients who had undergone extensive lung resection.

There is also a stigma associated with lung cancer. Unlike many other types of cancers risk of lung cancer is very much linked with smoking. Many who deal with lung cancer patients and the patient himself think that the disease is the direct result of misbehavior. This fills a feeling of guilt on the lung cancer patients who tend to blame themselves. Also this acts against any fund-raising program aimed at lung cancer where people unconsciously feel that lung cancer is a disease that these patients brought on themselves.

More funding and research are urgently needed for lung cancer. We all have to join our hands to fight this miserable enemy of the human species.