Other Views: Too many people believe myths about lung cancer

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Monica Holman
Tuesday, November 5, 2013

November is National Lung Cancer Awareness Month. It provides 30 full days to devote toward education about the disease, raise lung cancer’s profile throughout the country and provide an opportunity to share misconstrued yet important facts about lung cancer.

In 2012, Living for Liz, a pending 501(c)3 organization, was created in honor of La Crosse resident Elizabeth Holman-Melde, who succumbed to lung cancer seven months after diagnosis at age 25. Prior to diagnosis, Liz, a nonsmoker, knew very little about lung cancer. However, she quickly became astonished to learn the startling truth about the disease, who it affects, the volumes of inaccurate information surrounding it, and the lack of funding allotted for research and early detection.

Many lingering myths surround lung cancer. I’ve created a list of the four most common pieces of Facts vs. Fiction that Living for Liz believes are the most important to address and shed light on.

Fiction: Lung cancer is a “smoker’s disease.”

Fact: The majority of people now diagnosed with lung cancer currently do not smoke; 50 percent of these cancers occur in former smokers, and 15 percent occur in those who have never smoked at all.

Fiction: There is technology in place to screen everyone for lung cancer.

Fact: Researchers are working on developing new less-invasive screening methods for lung cancer. However, a low-dose CT scan is presently the only generally accepted method. Due to the risks that a CT scan presents, it is only used to screen older heavy smokers. This is a major factor that results in nearly 24,000 nonsmoking lung cancer patients dying every year.

Fiction: Cancer research has come a long way in recent years; surely this is true for lung cancer, as well.

Fact: Lung cancer has not seen advancements since 1971, when President Nixon declared a war on the disease. Currently, lung cancer is responsible for 29 percent of all cancer deaths in the U.S.—more than breast cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer combined. Presently, lung cancer has a five-year survival rate of only 15.6 percent—same as it was in 1971.

Fiction: Lung cancer receives the same amount of federal funding as other forms of cancer.

Fact: Even though lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in men and women in the United States, it is the least federally funded among all major cancers.

Awareness, prevention, research and treatment are the four main pillars of Living for Liz. Additionally, the organization aims to promote education and fundraising initiatives. On Nov. 13, Living for Liz will host its annual “Bet on a Cure” event to raise much-needed funds and awareness for lung cancer. The event will be from 6 to 10 p.m. in La Crosse at The Waterfront’s Cargill Room, 328 Front St. South.

For more information about lung cancer awareness, prevention, research, and treatment, as well as future Living for Liz events, please visit: www.LivingForLiz.com.

Monica Holman serves on the Board of Directors and is a co-founder of Living for Liz. As the mother of Elizabeth Holman-Melde, Monica is empowered by her daughter’s valiant fight against lung cancer. She is committed to bringing lung cancer to the forefront of all cancer research initiatives.

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