THE BLOG
05/15/2014 10:53 am ET Updated Jul 15, 2014

Sobering Statistics Tell Story About Reality of Women's Lung Cancer

As the number one cancer killer of women, lung cancer kills almost twice as many women as any other cancer. However, despite sobering diagnosis, treatment and survival statistics, lung cancer remains a silent epidemic. The disease has the horrible distinction of both impacting a tremendous number of people (more than 224,000 will be diagnosed in the U.S. this year) and bringing with it a distressingly low five-year survival rate of only 16 percent, among the lowest of all cancer types.

Smoking is not the only cause of lung cancer. Many Americans are unaware that genetics, as well as exposure to secondhand smoke, radon gas and air pollution also play an important role. In fact, data show that 10 percent of lung cancer cases are among people who have never smoked. While there are many misconceptions about this disease, the fact is that anyone -- including those who have never smoked and those who have successfully quit -- can get lung cancer. Every hour, 18 of our friends, neighbors and loved ones lose their battle with lung cancer. The alarming statistics make it clear that we must do more to address this critical public health issue, and make the conversation relevant for all women.

According to the American Lung Association's inaugural Women's Lung Health Barometer -- a survey of over 1,000 American women ages 18+ that measures women's awareness, knowledge and perceptions about lung cancer -- this disease is not even on women's radar. In fact, when asked to identify cancers that affect women, only 1 percent of women cited lung cancer on a top-of-mind basis. The Barometer also revealed that more than half of women believe that breast cancer kills more women, despite deaths associated with lung cancer surpassing breast cancer over a quarter of a century ago.

Data from The Barometer also revealed that although 58 percent of women claim to be knowledgeable about lung cancer, many are unaware of key facts about the disease. In fact, 4 out of 5 women (81 percent) do not know that less than half of all women diagnosed with lung cancer will be alive one year after diagnosis. Additionally, nearly 80 percent of women are not aware that less than one-fifth of women are diagnosed early when there are more treatment options and an increased chance of survival.

The Barometer shows that women are willing to commit to this fight and make lung cancer a cause that people care about. When women learn the truth about lung cancer -- especially the shocking mortality facts -- they are more likely to take action to address lung cancer. In fact, 82 percent are likely to tell friends about what they learned about lung cancer. Most importantly, women acknowledge that everyone has a role to play when it comes to raising awareness of lung cancer.

This week marks an important milestone in the more than 100 years that the American Lung Association has been working to save lives, improve lung health and prevent lung disease. The launch of LUNG FORCE, our new public health initiative, encourages women to raise their voices and make lung cancer a public health priority. Through this movement, we hope to put lung cancer in women on the map, drive policy change and increase research funding.

We are proud to stand beside our partner and presenting sponsor of LUNG FORCE, CVS Caremark. CVS Caremark is a natural partner for our cause given the bold move they made in February to remove tobacco from their stores, along with their ongoing commitment to smoking cessation and lung health.

This week may mark the beginning of a larger movement for the American Lung Association, but how can you get involved? I encourage you to go to LUNGFORCE.org and learn about ways to:

  • CONNECT: Pledge to join the LUNG FORCE movement at LUNGFORCE.org to stand together against lung cancer and fight for innovations in research, improved early detection methods and better treatments.
  • SHARE: If lung cancer has touched your life, or someone you love, please share your story - and encourage your friends and family on your social networks to join the LUNG FORCE.
  • WALK: Our voices will soar as we rally our friends, neighbors and colleagues to stand together, and walk together, against lung cancer - and for lung health for all.
  • DONATE: A donation supports our advancement of research, the development of new programs, more public policy advocacy, and our sharing of the most up-to-date information on the treatment and management of lung cancer and other lung diseases.

Click here for more startling facts and information about LUNG FORCE.

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