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Survey: Public Clueless About Lung Cancer — Part 2

The Lung Cancer Action Network commissioned a national online survey of 2,026 adults and asked a series of questions to gauge their knowledge about lung cancer. The survey was completed between Oct. 11-15, 2018.

Likewise, approximately 86 percent of respondents were unaware that lung cancer is the number one cancer killer of men. Sixty-two percent incorrectly believed prostate cancer is the number one cancer killer of men. In fact, lung cancer kills nearly three times as many men as prostate cancer.1

Public unawareness about the dangers of radon

We were aware of others’ lack of awareness about radon, but, again, the number of people who did not know that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer — 88 percent — was profoundly disappointing. According to the National Cancer Institute, scientists estimate that 15,000 to 22,000 lung cancer deaths in the United States each year are related to radon.2

Lung cancer early detection and screening

Everyone knows that early detection is important — no matter which type of cancer. So, we were unimpressed with the public’s knowledge about screening protocols for breast and colon cancer. Nearly half of respondents correctly said that screening could reduce the lung cancer mortality rate by 20 percent.3 (You may be surprised, as we were, to learn that recommended screening protocols for prostate are essentially nonexistent. Screen if you want, but the USPSTF does not seem to offer any firm guidelines.)

Most respondents said they were aware of screening for people considered at risk for breast, colon and prostate cancers. However, nearly two-thirds of respondents, 64 percent, were unaware that screening protocols exist for people at risk for lung cancer.

Most—83 percent—correctly said that mammogram is used for breast cancer screening. However, 60 percent, were unaware that lung cancer screening uses CT scan.4

The smoking stigma and research funding

More importantly, 88 percent of respondents were unaware that most lung cancer diagnoses are in people who are former smokers or never smoked.5 And 92 percent of respondents did not know that people who quit smoking as many as 15 years ago may still qualify for lung cancer screening.6

No surprise to learn that the majority of respondent suspected that, of major cancers, breast cancer receives the most NCI research funding.7

Confirming our hypothesis

We confirmed our hypothesis. Our conclusion is that the public is woefully unaware about the number one cancer killer. We wanted to share these results with you, not to preach to the choir, but so you can share with others who may be uninformed, especially those at risk for lung cancer and their loved ones.

Read more about the Lung Cancer Action Network’s national survey and the questions that were asked, along with the correct answers and percent of respondents who answered correctly, in Part III here. Read Part I here.

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. “Estimated New Cancer Cases and Deaths for 2018,” SEER Cancer Statistics accessed 10/18/2018
  2. “Radon and Cancer,” National Cancer Institute website accessed 10/18/2018
  3. “Reduced Lung-Cancer Mortality with Low-Dose Computed Tomographic Screening,” The New England Journal of Medicine, 8/4/2011
  4. “Lung Cancer: Screening,” U.S. Preventive Services Task Force accessed 10/18/2018
  5. “Out of the Shadows: Women and Lung Cancer,” Harvard Medical School & Brigham and Women’s Hospital, 4/22/2010
  6. “Lung Cancer: Screening,” U.S. Preventive Services Task Force accessed 10/18/2018
  7. “Funding by Research Areas,” National Cancer Institute accessed 10/18/2018