(BlackDoctor.org) — November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, joining more than 200 other health awareness days that range from breast cancer and heart disease to foot health and motorcycle safety.
With such a crowded disease-of-the-month awareness calendar, I can understand why many of them don’t make headlines, even if past events have contributed to increased testing, improved diagnosis and better disease outcomes.
However, whether it’s part of an official awareness month or not, greater awareness and diligence are still greatly needed for many diseases — particular lung cancer.
Lung Cancer Claims More Lives Than Most Other “Popular” Cancers Combined
Lung cancer is a disease that claims more lives each year than breast, prostate and colorectal cancers combined. Tobacco use accounts for nearly 87 percent of all lung cancer deaths each year, although some 10 percent of lung cancer diagnoses are found in people who have never smoked.
It is estimated that African-American men are 40 percent more likely than Caucasian men to develop the disease over the course of their lifetimes. The rate is approximately the same in African-American women and Caucasian women.
We’re Making Progress, But People Are Still Dying
Smoking rates have steadily declined since the 1964 Surgeon General’s Report, which stated that smoking was harmful. Today, the percentage of people who smoke is the lowest since World War I.
We have started to see people living longer with lung cancer. However, still less than 15 percent of those with later stage disease survive five years. Compare that to breast cancer, which has a 93 percent survival rate when diagnosed early, and prostate cancer, which has a nearly 100 percent five-year survival rate when diagnosed at early stages.