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Lung Cancer Awareness Month

By Tammy McCausland

It’s been said that cancer impacts us all, either directly or indirectly through someone we know. Until earlier this year, I mainly knew of cancer indirectly. My uncle was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer just as the pandemic hit. I’m certain the pandemic delayed his treatment, just as it has millions of others in the U.S. and in other countries. Due to pandemic travel restrictions, I wasn’t able to take my dad to visit him. He died October 7, eight months after a long, hard fought battle.

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), “Lung cancer (both small cell and non-small cell) is the second most common cancer in both men and women.” Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is the most common, making up 80 to 85 percent of lung cancers. Small cell lung cancer (SCLC), which makes up 10 to 15 percent of lung cancer diagnoses, grows and spreads more quickly than NSCLC. For about 70 percent of people diagnosed with SCLC, the cancer has already spread. Other tumors can also affect the lungs.

Lung Cancer Statistics:

  • It’s the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women.
  • One in 16 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with lung cancer in their lifetime.
  • Lung cancer mainly affects people over 65; the average age of diagnosis is 70.
  • 10 to 15 percent of new lung cancer cases are among people who have never smoked.
  • More people die of lung cancer than colorectal, breast, and prostate cancers combined.
  • The 5-year survival rates are 24 percent for NSCLC is 24 percent and 6 percent for SCLC.

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center published an article in October about four critical ways to prevent and manage lung cancer. Fortunately, fewer people are getting lung cancer because fewer people are smoking. There are also promising advancements in immunotherapy to treat non-small cell lung cancer. But not all lung cancer patients respond to immunotherapy. A new study identifies the reasons why. Also, many lung cancer diagnoses are late stage, but a pioneering trial show promise of earlier detection.

A recent article suggests that the last decade of lung cancer research has been transformative. Lung-MAP, a large precision medicine initiative launched by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), aims to create a research roadmap for targeted therapies for a subset of non-small cell lung cancer patients. Other research explores the lung microbiome biomarkers. A researcher at Indiana University was recently awarded a $2.9 million NCI grant to improve lung cancer radiation therapy.

Despite being a leading cause of death, only 6 percent of federal research dollars in the U.S. are allocated to lung cancer research. The American Society of Clinical Oncology’s CEO recently discussed the need for more research funding.


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Has treatment delayed in your department due to the pandemic?




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