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Wanna Know What REALLY Aggravates Lung Cancer Advocates?

Wanna Know What REALLY Aggravates Lung Cancer Advocates?

It is common knowledge within the lung cancer community that patients face an oppressive smoking stigma associated with our disease. When asked questions about lung cancer, the general public continues to be quite lacking in accurate understandings of the causes, risk factors, prevalence, treatment possibilities, outlook for survival, and so many other related matters. This is why we look to well known and established advocacy organizations to help educate people on a wide scale.

An overemphasis on smoking cessation

There are a number of fine lung cancer non-profits working tirelessly to aid the cause of lung cancer research, government advocacy, patient care and all of the things that go into moving the ball forward for the benefit of everyone affected by this disease. The problem is, for those who have not been introduced to our community yet, the first place they often go to research any form of cancer, including lung cancer, is to the American Cancer Society (ACS).

While ACS has plenty of useful information on its website, it has been notorious in its constant emphasis on lung cancer’s connection to smoking, and that runs afoul of many patient advocates. For instance, when I reviewed its college chapters’ events during lung cancer awareness month, virtually all of them dealt with smoking cessation to the exclusion of all else.

What cancer issues do you care about?

The Great American Smokeout is the only November activity specifically sponsored by ACS in reference to lung cancer awareness month. There is nothing to educate people about radon exposure, genetic factors, air pollution or even simply doing white outs with white ribbons (after all, every October is blanketed with pink, and we all know what that means).

So, when a recent survey was put out by ACS’ Cancer Action Network (ACSCAN) with only one question, “What cancer issues do you care about most?” it quickly raised the ire of many in the lung cancer community. You see, among the possibilities on its checklist of answers were five different types of cancer. One would think that lung cancer, which takes the lives of 154,000 Americans annually, significantly more than the next three leading cancers combined, would be at the top of the list1. This was, however, not the case. Not only was it absent entirely, but there were also four smoking related topics that did make the list.

Putting an end to the stigma

One could legitimately claim that smoking does play an important role in causing health problems and, in fact, a variety of cancer types. Unfortunately, the problem is that lung cancer patients have been beaten down for so many years by the finger of blame pointed at us as it relates to smoking that we justifiably assume that these options were put on the list “in place of” lung cancer. After all, if we stop smoking in the population lung cancer goes away. Right? RIGHT?

When the best known and one of the oldest cancer non-profits in the country continues to propagate the stigma so many of us are working hard to bring to an end, it definitely gains our attention. Since the release of this survey, some have said it is likely nothing more than a marketing ploy to add names to their potential donor lists, and that they logically list the items they already know interest people the most. If, indeed, that is the case, then it is all the more reason for everyone to recognize the need for lung cancer education and widespread public awareness campaigns. It goes without saying that this education needs to happen inside the American Cancer Society as well as throughout the wider public arena.

Editor’s Note: We are extremely saddened to say that on June 8, 2019, Karen Loss passed away. Karen was a valued member of the lung cancer community and an incredible advocate and avid writer. She will be deeply missed.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Cancer Stat Facts: Lung and Bronchus Cancer. National Cancer Institute. Retrieved from:


  • PeteConaty
    11 months ago

    Can’t agree more. Not sure how any of the cancers can get the recognition Pink month gets. Not saying anything against breast cancer awareness. But I rarely hear about all the other cancers out there.

  • Karen Loss author
    11 months ago

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Pete. As you note, there are many types of cancer that need attention. We just keep trying to bring about more public awareness. I am personally grateful for platforms like that provide a means to reach a growing audience.

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