Lung cancer kills almost two times as many women as breast cancer, but lung cancer research receives about half as much funding as breast cancer research. Why is there such a drastic difference in public perception and activism around these diseases? Most importantly, when it comes to cancer awareness months, what are the most impactful ways to truly help each cause?
A Tale of Two Cancers
Between the ubiquitous pink ribbons, charity walks, NFL apparel and brand promotions, it’s hard to miss that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. But look around just a month later and you’d be hard-pressed to even notice that there’s another cancer awareness campaign in action at all. Largely because of their drastically different marketing pushes, breast cancer and lung cancer raise drastically different amounts each year. In 2011, Marie Claireestimated that more than $6 billion was raised annually for the purpose for breast cancer awareness. That amounts to more than twice as much funding as any other cancer, including lung cancer.
What’s the problem with pink ribbons?
While any fundraising for cancer research is good in theory, many issues have arisen as breast cancer awareness has grown into a major business. One problem is that for all the money raised in October, only a small portion actually goes to research. According to The Week,“ESPN once calculated, for instance, that for every $100 spent on all the pink NFL merchandise available during fall, only $8.01 of it ends up in the hands of scientists aiming to find better treatments and a cure.” In addition, there have been many reports of “sham charities” promoting pink ribbons for their own profit. Michelle L. Corey, an executive at the Better Business Bureau, even warned consumers that “simply because a company puts a pink ribbon on its package, doesn’t always mean a good breast cancer charity is benefitting from your purchase.” But even beyond these issues, the most important problem related to the pink ribbons may be that when it comes to breast cancer, basic awareness isn’t what’s needed most. Most women know that after a certain age, they need to get regular breast cancer screenings. The real problem, according to The Week, is that “too many women can’t afford a screening or don’t know where to get an affordable one.”
4 Actions You Can Take This Month
November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. And, unlike breast cancer, lung cancer truly does need more awareness. But when it comes to the disease, what exactly do people need to be most aware of? Beyond wearing a pearl ribbon or sharing a hashtag on social media, here are four tangible actions you can take this month.
- Know your risks
More people die each year from lung cancer than any other cancer. Some of the risks factors associated with lung cancer may be related to family history or genetics. But many risk factors such as smoking, air pollution or exposure to asbestos are in your control. Learn more about your specific risk factors by visiting the Lung Cancer Foundation of America’s (LCFA) webpage.
- Get an annual LDCT
Early signs of lung cancer are easy to ignore. In fact, people can have a great quality of life without ever knowing they have lung cancer. Because of this, over 80% of lung cancer patients are diagnosed when the cancer is already at an advanced stage. Unfortunately, it’s much harder to treat lung cancer at an advanced stage. And because of this, the LCFA reports that “for every 100 people diagnosed with lung cancer, only 17 will still be living 5 years later.” If patients are diagnosed in the earliest stages, that survival rate more than triples. Because of this, if you meet certain eligibility risk factors such as a 30-pack year smoking history, are a current or former smoker, and are over the age of 55, it’s recommended that you receive an annual low-dose CT scan (LDCT) in order to increase your chances of early detection. You can learn more about LDCT here.
- Learn About Tumor Testing & Targeted Therapies
Around 2007, The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) discovered that no two tumors are alike. This discovery led to new ways to understand and treat cancer. Once a tumor’s unique mutations or “biomarkers” are identified, then treatments can be customized for those specific biomarkers. Similarly, patients can now also receive “targeted therapies.” According to the LCFA, “Once the tumor’s unique biomarkers are identified, targeted therapies work to shut down or inhibit mutations that would otherwise make the cancer cells grow and divide.” If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with lung cancer, it is recommended you learn more about the latest developments in biomarker testing and targeted therapies today.
- Put Your Money Where It Matters
When you donate money this November, make sure your donation is going to an organization or charity you trust. A great recommendation is to visit Charity Navigator, an independent website that ranks various charities. Choose an organization that matches your lung cancer research funding goals and together we can fight for new treatments and protocols for lung cancer patients.
Carrol M. It’s Time To Get Rid of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The Week Website. Accessed November 11, 2018.
Cancer: The Harsh Story of Lung Cancer vs Breast Cancer. CancerGeek Website. Accessed November 11, 2018.
November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. Lung Cancer Foundation of America Website. Accessed November 11, 2018.
Goldman L. The Big Business of Breast Cancer. Marie Claire Website. Accessed November 11, 2018.
Critical Thinking On Breast Cancer. Breast Cancer Consortium Website. Accessed November 11, 2018.