Lung Cancer: Let's Get Ready to Rumble

In coming days, after NFL teams clean up and store their pink cleats for another year, politicians return their ribbons to desk drawers, and the flood of breast cancer stories subsides, another cancer will have its month in the sun: lung cancer. Only it won't be sunshine that will prevail, but dark and threatening cloud cover with the occasional deadly lightning strike.

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month -- only you probably didn't know that. Here are some other things that polling indicates you probably didn't know: lung cancer will kill three times more of us this year than any other cancer, you have a 1 in 14 chance of getting lung cancer in your lifetime, just about half of us know someone who has or died of lung cancer, and close to 80 percent more women will die of lung cancer in 2011 than breast cancer.

Why should you know about lung cancer? Precious little is said or written about it. You could call it benign neglect, except the impact is lethal. Lung cancer's relatively low profile is compounded by large amounts of misinformation, misperception, and stereotyping. The result is that the deadliest cancer killer of all runs rampant.

I will be the first to admit that before my wife -- a life-long never smoker -- was diagnosed in early 2010 (FYI: women with lung cancer are twice as likely as men with the disease to have never smoked) lung cancer just wasn't on our radar screen. Now our family can't get it off our radar screen. And we're determined to get it on yours, somewhere.

That's why we are today announcing Leaders of the Lung Cancer Free World℠ -- a nationwide communications campaign created with one goal in mind: to generate greater public awareness and understanding of lung cancer, the nation's number one cancer killer by a factor of three.
Advertise, editorialize, promote, petition, Tweet, plead, cajole. We are prepared to do whatever it takes to get you to notice and engage.

The Leaders campaign brings together a complementary portfolio of some of the nation's leading lung cancer organizations -- The CHEST Foundation of the American College of Chest Physicians, The National Lung Cancer Partnership and Uniting Against Lung Cancer -- who will coordinate on, support and be the financial beneficiaries of this effort. By taking a multi-front assault on lung cancer, we hope to:

  • Urge the President to declare lung cancer a national health crisis;
  • Increase public support for the Lung Cancer Mortality Reduction Act, which seeks to halve lung cancer mortality by 2020;
  • Raise public and physician understanding of the disease in an effort to encourage early diagnosis and more effective treatment;
  • Encourage more Americans to stop smoking;
  • Raise more funds in the fight against this dreadful disease.

This post began with a reference -- offered with reverence and admiration -- to the breast cancer fight, and the absolutely brilliant job women, working together, have done raising the profile of the disease, generating greater understanding, and galvanizing resources. With lung cancer diagnoses among women up six-fold in the last 30 years -- and with the disease now killing substantially more women than breast, ovarian and uterine cancers combined -- we hope and pray that women will join the fight, bringing their smarts, energy, know-how and determination to bear against this scurrilous disease that is taking such a horrific toll on them and their families.

As for our family, we don't question why lung cancer happens and why it happened to ours. What we don't understand is why we are not much further along in the fight against this awful disease. I say this honestly and without rancor, irony or self-pity: this campaign may come too late to help our family, but we hope it will help yours.

Join us. There is so much you can do. Sign the petition encouraging the president and Congress to declare lung cancer a national health crisis. Donate to our partners. Encourage a loved one to stop smoking. Help us spread the word on Facebook and Twitter.

Over the next five years, more than 1,000,000 Americans will be diagnosed with lung cancer. Together, we can help save many of them. It's time to fight back.