Lung Cancer is NOT an Automatic Death Sentence

Recently, a woman in an online parenting group that I belong to announced that she had been diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer and she was very upset about telling her family that she was going to die. Of course, within minutes many other members of the group chimed in, advising second opinions and telling stories of people they knew who had been treated for lung cancer. A few people tagged me and I reached out to this woman as well.

While she is investigating her options, it made me think about how many patients are STILL out there who are diagnosed with advanced lung cancer and are told to start getting their affairs in order. Even today, when there are a lot of new treatments, clinical trials, and hope for patients with lung cancer, there are newly diagnosed patients who never find out about or take advantage of these options.

Addressing disparities in treatment

According to the American Lung Association (ALA), “In the United States, just over 15% of patients with lung cancer receive no treatment.” People diagnosed with lung cancer often go untreated “because of lack of provider or patient knowledge, stigma associated with lung cancer, fatalism after diagnosis, or cost of treatment.”1

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These disparities in treatment make me incredibly sad. Given the plethora of treatment options for lung cancer that have been approved in the past five years, I wish that everyone would have access to these opportunities for improving their lung cancer outcomes.

However, research has shown that only the most educated and connected patients have access to the newest and best advances in research and treatment. The woman whom I referenced at the beginning of this article was connected enough to post about her situation on a website and receive good advice. Other patients, such as those who are older, sicker, poorer, geographically isolated, or members of various racial and ethnic communities, might not have ways to reach out and as a result, might not receive the same benefits.

How to ensure everyone has access to care

I recently co-authored an article about how different patient populations are impacted by disparities in lung cancer entitled “Lung Cancer Health Care Delivery, Community Building, and Research: Are They Truly Inclusive?” along with Jill Feldman, Matthew B. Schabath, PhD and Upal Basu Roy, PhD, MPH. This article was published in the International Lung Cancer News (ILCN).

In this article, we discuss disparities that exist in online communities and in clinical trials in the lung cancer community, in addition to the differences in health care delivery. We conclude the article with some real-world suggestions for action that needs to be taken in order to make the wonderful progress we have made in lung cancer research and treatment available to all who need it.

Lung cancer should not be an automatic death sentence

So while the title of this article is “Lung Cancer is NOT an Automatic Death Sentence,” that is currently still wishful thinking, unfortunately. Given the options that are available, lung cancer SHOULD NOT be an automatic death sentence for anyone at this time in the 21st century; however, we still have a ways to go to make sure this statement is true for all newly diagnosed patients.

Editor’s Note: We are extremely saddened to say that on June 23, 2024, Ivy Elkins passed away. Ivy’s advocacy efforts and writing continue to reach many. 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.

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