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I Admit It. I’m Jealous of Pinktober.

Are you ready for it? October is here and you know what that means. Everything will be covered in pink.

A closer look at the statistics

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), breast cancer killed slightly more than 51,000 people, mostly women, in 2015.1 If one of those who died was your mom, sister, daughter or best friend, it hurt a lot to lose them. Fortunately, the American Cancer Society (ACS) reports that the five-year survival rate for women diagnosed with breast cancer is 90%.2

More than three times as many die from lung cancer as from breast cancer. Nevertheless, I’ll wager that you won’t see campaigns that turn everything white in November. And, you won’t hear much about those 163,000 moms, dads, sisters, brothers, daughters, sons, and best friends who succumbed to lung cancer this year either.1

Realities of lung cancer

Since I am active in the lung cancer world, I know hundreds of people who have been diagnosed with the disease. It may surprise you, but the majority of the people I know who are living with lung cancer have never smoked. Ever. A few did, but they quit long before they were diagnosed. Most of the people I know who have late-stage lung cancer are young women, with little kids and a lot of life left to live.

The ACS reports that the average age of someone diagnosed with lung cancer is 70.3 Maybe so, but when I think about the face of lung cancer in 2018, Jessie (not her real name) comes to mind. She was 27 and pregnant with her third child when she was diagnosed. She was a dancer, an athlete, a brilliant young pharmacist married to a biologist. Life was rosy for this young family until that day three years ago when her stage 4 lung cancer was discovered. Since then, life revolves around trip after 200-mile trip made to the hospital, submitting to this treatment and that, trying to stay ahead of the tumors that refuse to be stopped.

Her greatest desire is to see her kids graduate from high school. I pray that they’ll find a way to cure her or at least treat her cancer as a chronic disease so that will be possible.

Thinking about November, Lung Cancer Awareness Month

However, until we start to see November, Lung Cancer Awareness Month, blanketed in white and every professional football team sporting lung cancer ribbons and every major company promising to donate toward the cause if you buy their product, we’re going to continue to say goodbye to far too many of our friends and family members. Until the NIH finally chooses to fund lung cancer research at a fair rate compared to other cancers, we’ll continue to lose 447* people to this disease

You and I care. But how do we get the mass populace to quit blaming us for our disease and start caring about the fact that only 18% of us will survive for five years after diagnosis?4 And that, too often, we’re leaving behind young families who will have only memories of their mom or dad?

So, yeah. Pinktober makes me jealous. And, very frustrated.

*calculated by taking the NIH 2015 death rate of 163,199 and dividing it by 365 days in a year

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. NIH Estimates of Funding for Various Research, Condition, and Disease Categories (RCDC). Table updated as of May 18, 2018. Accessed 9/6/2018.
  2. American Cancer Society. How Common is Breast Cancer? Accessed 9/7/2018.
  3. American Cancer Society. "About Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer."  Accessed 9/7/2018.
  4. American Cancer Society. Cancer Statistics Center. "5-year relative survival, 2007-2013." Accessed 9/7/2018.


  • rhonda
    1 year ago

    What can we do?

  • Yolanda Brunson-Sarrabo moderator
    1 year ago

    Rhonda, we do the best we can do, even if it means bugging our state representatives to speak up in Washington on lung disease. They are our voice, they are supposed to tend to issues we hold dear to our heart, and this is one cancer that’s up there.

  • Donna Fernandez moderator author
    1 year ago

    Hi Rhonda, I wish I knew.

    The only thing I really can say is that we need to keep on advocating as best we can. Make as much noise as we can. Educate as best we can. I honestly think it is the lack of education that is the major problem.

    Thank you for your comment! Donna

  • Yolanda Brunson-Sarrabo moderator
    1 year ago

    Yes, Donna, Pinktober seems to be the fave disease; if that even makes sense. I think all cancers should be looked at with the same enthusiasm for research and awareness, but unfortunately, they are not. I do agree we need to get out in November however small to bring the needed attention lung cancer deserves. I’m planning a few things in my organization as small as they may be to continue the fight this November.

  • Donna Fernandez moderator author
    1 year ago

    Me, too, Yolanda!! I don’t have an organization, but I do have a loud mouth that I use 🙂

    I guess we should be glad we don’t have liver cancer – “their month” is also October – talk about getting hidden 🙁

    I actually try to be very proactive every day of every month in getting the story out about lung cancer, but I am very sensitive about the attention breast cancer gets compared to any of the other cancers. Many are much more deadly these days.

    Thank you very much for your hard work!

  • Yolanda Brunson-Sarrabo moderator
    1 year ago

    Thank you so much Donna. You and I, and so many do what we can do- with what we’re given. As you mentioned, there are so many other conditions out here that are very much under the radar. Though many women (and some men) may be prone to breast cancer, it is not the all that be all. I was on the look out for breast cancer as my grandmother was the only one in immediate family to get it, and me being the oldest of the grand kids; I luckily dodged this but ended up with something else.

    Like I said we do what we can. Continue being proactive, the more of us that make noise is when finally we’ll be heard as LC Advocates.


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