If This Doesn't Make You See Red, What Will?

Last year, Cure magazine published an article entitled, The American Lung Association Seeks to End Stigma, that, obviously, deals with the very real lung cancer stigma.1 We, as lung cancer survivors, feel the stigma personally when we are inevitably asked, "Oh, do you smoke?" when we tell someone of our diagnosis. The stigma goes so deep that the article quotes an unnamed source at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as saying the following when asked why funding for lung cancer research is so dismal:

"The NIH states that funding is provided to research based on its scientific merits, not the type of cancer it targets."1

Stark disparities in research funding

I have to tell you that when I read that sentence my blood boiled, steam was spewing out of my ears. How dare someone try to explain away the fact that lung cancer research only gets allocated about $1,700 per lung cancer death, compared to breast cancer that gets about $13,000 per death or leukemia that gets about $10,000 per death. (Please note - the facts and figures about funding per death vary somewhat, depending on the source. The figures above were included in the Cure article.)

I ask you, would the NIH have us believe that lung cancer researchers are simply very poor grant writers or that they are incapable of designing research studies worthy of funding? That's what the quoted statement above suggests to me. And, to that I say (no, I scream), "What a crock!!!" (And, yes, I did try to clean up my thoughts a bit so that all audiences can read this post.)

It gets worse.

Where is the progress?

Today, I was researching trends. My dad was diagnosed with the exact same lung cancer as I have (stage IV, non-small cell adenocarcinoma) back in 1976. I was curious to see what five-year survival rates looked like then and now.

Get ready to see red! The progress that we are making toward reducing the number of people who succumb to this disease is absolutely dismal, especially compared to the progress being made for other cancers. That alone, in my not so humble opinion, should inform the NIH that we need more research for effective treatments, if not cures, for lung cancer. They need to quit resting on the worn-out fact that smoking causes cancer and get something done!!! It starts with providing adequate, or at least equitable, funding.

Please note that the report I quote below was published in 2010 so the figures may have changed ever-so-slightly, but the NIH has not released a more recent report.

5-Year Survival Rates

Breast Cancer
Prostate Cancer
Lung Cancer
Colorectal Cancer
Bladder Cancer

Source: NIH Cancer Fact Sheet 2

Where is the outrage?

How can anyone (anyone???) look at that chart and not be absolutely furious? How can anyone think that we are making enough progress in fighting lung cancer? How can anyone not care about the discrepancies in funding allocated toward research?

Interestingly, the same report says that in 1976, approximately 37% of the US adult population were current cigarette smokers. In 2007, the NIH reports that about 20% were current smokers. So, if smoking is such a culprit as to get all of the blame for causing lung cancer, why hasn't the survival rate dramatically increased when smoking rates declined by 17% over 30 years?

And, while I am asking questions, ranting, and raving, I have one more. Why are women not more upset about what is happening to them? They turn out in droves wearing pink to advocate for breast cancer awareness and funding. But, breast cancer is not what is killing them. Lung cancer is.

In 2018, it is estimated that 266,120 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. It is expected that 40,920 will succumb to the disease in 2018.3

Contrast that with the fact that the same source estimates that 112,350 women will be told they have lung cancer and 70,500 women will die of the disease.3 If those figures don't scare you, what will?

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