LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Misunderstood cancer

Nov 30, 2011

Yet the real answer is lung cancer — and it will continue to be the leading cause of cancer deaths among men and women today, tomorrow and for decades to come.

Why is this extraordinary and devastating fact not known? Because lung cancer is the most stigmatized, misunderstood and ignored cancer of all. While it may be easy for society to blame lung cancer on smoking, the reality today is that 80 percent of new lung cancer cases inflict people who either have never smoked or have quit smoking — most decades ago. It is taking more lives each year than breast, prostate, colon and pancreatic cancers combined. And lung cancer has a very low five-year survival rate of 15 percent.

Nobody deserves lung cancer, whatever the cause, and we must do more to combat this devastating disease. Success lies in approaching lung cancer comprehensively — just as we do other major illness. Prevention and wellness coupled with early detection and treatment options must be adequately funded and coordinated. Isn’t that how we approach heart disease? Breast cancer? HIV/AIDS? Why should lung cancer be held to a different standard?

Fortunately, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators and congressional representatives have recognized that lung cancer can no longer be ignored and have developed national legislation called the Lung Cancer Mortality Reduction Act. This act would establish a comprehensive approach that requires federal health agencies to coordinate, provides new resources and tools to health agencies, supports early detection and treatment, and creates programs to combat lung cancer in vulnerable populations including veterans, minorities, the poor and women.

No one can breathe easy while the disease of lung cancer continues to strike our fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, neighbors and friends. Let us all breathe new life into the effort to fight lung cancer, by contacting our congressional representatives, via this number: 877-727-5068; and asking them to become sponsors of the Lung Cancer Mortality Reduction Act of 2011.

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month! Did you know?

— Sharon Leach, Grand Haven

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