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An image of a baseball and white lung cancer awareness ribbons

Lung Cancer and Baseball – An Unlikely Marriage?

Ask anyone what pops into their head when you mention lung cancer. The answers are likely to range from smoking, to death, to chemo, to sadness, and the list goes on. If you ask a lung cancer patient or caregiver the same question, you might also get doctor visits, infusions, side effects, and possibly even clinical trials and/or research. So, what does any of that have to do with baseball?

A big killer with little research funding

Something that is not well-known among the general public is that lung cancer has been and remains the biggest cancer killer of them all in both male and female populations, taking the lives of more than 1/4 of all people attributed to cancer each year; however, only about 6% of federal funding is distributed to lung cancer research.1 Unfortunately, early screening, better treatments, and improved medical care won’t happen in a vacuum. It takes research dollars, and that takes public awareness.

This is where sports comes in. Pick your favorite. Mine is baseball. Now, think about how each game either does or could incorporate special people into the “show” for the night. This lends itself well to spreading a bit of lung cancer awareness far and wide across the land by simply putting willing patients in special roles at the games.

Sporting events are opportunities for awareness

In major league baseball, each team plays 81 home games every season, and there are 30 teams. That means the American and National Leagues will have a minimum of 2,430 specially invited people throwing out first pitches every year. Those individuals are announced over the PA system to the thousands of people attending the games. And if we drill down to minor league baseball where there are 248 teams, there are thousands more opportunities across the country. And that is professional baseball alone.

Two summers ago, I sought this opportunity with the Washington Nationals, my hometown team. The LUNGevity Foundation assisted me in making the contact with the communications director for the team, and a date was set. I took it from there and made contact with the local ABC TV sports department and was able to get them to cover my first pitch and a little interview which was aired several times, all on behalf of gaining lung cancer awareness. By doing that, I expanded the audience to many, many more than were at the ballpark. (You can check out coverage of the game and a video of Karen’s pitch by clicking here.)

Lung Cancer and Baseball - An Unlikely Marriage?

Let’s put lung cancer front and center

This same strategy could be used for football games, perhaps with a special guest coin toss at the start of the game. Pick your sport and you can find a way to gain some brief but valuable time to put lung cancer front and center in people’s minds. If you need a lung cancer non-profit to help you gain the toe in the door, just ask. I did.

People need to see lung cancer patients out and about. They need to know that they could be in our shoes, because every living person has the two things needed to end up with a lung cancer diagnosis — lungs. The reason the lung cancer community remains largely hidden from public view is because still, to this day, too few of us survive this disease. The outlook is beginning to look brighter for some, however, and that is because of new treatments and screenings for earlier detection. So much more could be done with more research dollars…and that takes increased public support.

A public outcry for more research funding

Legislators and financial appropriators at the big medical agencies like the National Cancer Institute and National Institute of Health have shown that they will do very little to increase research funding for lung cancer given past history. It will take an outcry from the masses to show them this is both needed and wanted by the American public who pay their bills. And the only way to get the public to know it is needed and to realize they want this is to make them aware of the problem, the funding disparity, and the difference a long overdue fix to the situation could make.

Imagine how much of a spotlight we could bring to the need for lung cancer research if dozens of us, or better still hundreds of us, make efforts in partnership with our favorite local sports teams all around the country. All you need is motivation, desire, and persistence. Let’s make this marriage happen!

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. Lung Cancer Statistics. LUNGevity. Available at: