The Importance of Baby Steps in Lung Cancer Awareness
November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. Do most people know this? No, probably not. It’s impossible to miss all the pink announcing that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the Movember movement has really brought a lot of attention to men’s health issues including prostate and testicular cancer in November.
What about lung cancer?
But what about lung cancer? What do we need to do to get attention in the month of November? Short of finding a celebrity to champion our cause (Bradley Cooper, if you’re reading this, please call me!), I think the lung cancer community is doing all the right things to generate awareness about the #1 cancer killer. There are articles, tweets, billboards, even pictures and videos in Time Square!
Putting a face to lung cancer
However, change does not happen overnight. Now that more lung cancer patients have life-extending treatments and as a result are living longer, it is becoming increasingly possible for us to advocate for awareness, funding, and research. This wasn’t even possible more than 5 years ago.
To echo some advice from tireless lung cancer advocate and my friend Chris Draft, we need to show the public all the faces of lung cancer and that it’s possible for people with lung cancer to be out enjoying their lives. Only by seeing these personal stories can we gradually change the public’s perception of lung cancer from an automatic death sentence that is only caused by smoking to a disease that can affect anyone who has lungs.
Starting the awareness conversation
I receive my lung cancer treatment at the University of Chicago. Last year, I approached them and asked if I could have a table on the cancer floor for one day of November. I talked to new and long-term lung cancer patients and their families and distributed supportive information from LUNGevity and IASLC. It was only one day, but you have to start somewhere!
This year, my cancer center is having at least 5 separate events during the month of November to promote Lung Cancer Awareness Month. This includes tables, a Bonnie Addario living room, a Shine a Light event, and an educational program for medical professionals. While I would love to take credit for it all, we also have a new superstar thoracic surgeon who is championing the cause from the inside. Hopefully these events will be successful and lead to more in the future.
Advice to my fellow advocates
So what advice do I have for lung cancer survivors in November? Do something, no matter how small, to increase awareness. Post on social media, talk to a group, contact the newspaper, share your story, or volunteer to do something at your cancer center. All of these efforts count and I am optimistic that all of our baby steps as a community will give rise to changes in public perception of lung cancer. We need to get attention in order to increase funding for the life-saving research we need!
Do you enjoy the holiday season?