One reason that lung cancer is so deadly is that it is often difficult to detect in early stages, and even then, lung cancer can quickly spread to other areas of the body. Unfortunately, there are no widely accepted screening methods for early stage lung cancer, such as mammograms for breast cancer, and the Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) test for prostate cancer.
The Stigma Of Lung Cancer Needs To Change…And It Is
Since survival rates for lung cancer are among the lowest across all cancer types, and there is a social stigma associated with the disease, it has precious few vocal advocates. There are virtually no recognized public faces of lung cancer, in other words, what Nancy Brinker (sister of Susan G. Komen) is for breast cancer and Lance Armstrong is for testicular cancer.
But things are changing. For the first time in decades, positive news is peppering the landscape. More people are recognizing the symptoms that can lead to an earlier diagnosis – persistent coughing or chest pain, shortness of breath, wheezing or hoarseness, coughing up blood, recurring pneumonia or bronchitis, and loss of appetite.
Clinical advances have meant that newer medicines and unique drug combinations are now available. Some patients have the option to start a maintenance therapy immediately following their first-line treatments to try to maintain a positive response, instead of stopping treatment and waiting until the disease progresses to treat it again. And a greater understanding of lung cancer genetic variations and tumor types allows physicians to provide patients with the right drug for their specific type of lung cancer.
But There’s Still A Long Road Ahead…
We’ve made great strides, thanks to the tireless work of advocates, researchers, physicians and many others. But we have a long road ahead. Finding innovative solutions for treating these tough diseases must remain a top priority for all of us in the health care industry.
I, for one, am not fatigued by the avalanche of disease awareness months. Collectively, they remind me of how far we have come in understanding and treating some diseases – and how far we have to go with others.