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Need your feedback!--Updated 3/26!--Updated--published 4/15!


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After I wrote my initial "angry" topic yesterday, I decided to see if I could do something to focus more attention on lung cancer--particularly in women. So I wrote this piece that I am going to send to all the neewspapers in Alabama. I tried to be midful of the fact that cancer is cancer and it all stinks, so that it wouldn't pit breast against lung cancer. Y'all had such wonderful and thoughtful responses yesterday, I thought you could give me good feedback.

Oh yes--and guys, I'm not saying that lung cancer in men isn't important, but the discussion is going to be all about women's cancers so maybe if LC gets added to that list maybe we can get some more research funding.--Susan

Lung Cancer is a Women's Cancer Too.

I am deeply sorry to hear that Elizabeth Edwards’ breast cancer has returned. She’s a Democrat and I’m a Republican, but we are both women and we know that breast cancer is our cancer.

Never mind that men can also get breast cancer, those little pink ribbons we sport every October, the “walks for the cure,” and the special pink shades of lipstick all tell us that breast cancer is the women’s cancer.

Or so I thought until last January when I sat in a doctor’s office with my mother and learned that she had lung cancer. The words hit like a sledge hammer. As a seven year breast cancer survivor, she was preparing herself to hear that her cancer had returned and spread to her bones. Breast cancer; she beat it once and she could beat it again.

Lung cancer, on the other hand, is a whole different beast. In doing some research after my mother’s diagnosis I was stunned to learn that lung cancer kills more women each year than breast, ovarian, and uterine cancers combined. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2007 101,000 women will be diagnosed with lung cancer while a little more than 70,000 women will die of the disease. Even though more women (176,000) will be diagnosed with breast cancer, far fewer will die of it (40,000).

One of the reasons for the improved prognosis for breast cancer patients is that all of the ribbon, walks, and fundraisers have raised awareness and generated tremendous sums of money for breast cancer research. In 2005 the federal government spent approximately $23,000 per death on breast cancer research. That funding has translated into better screening, earlier diagnosis, and more effective treatments for breast cancer. It’s a battle we are beginning to win. I wish I could say the same about lung cancer.

In 2005 the federal government spent a mere $1,800 per death on lung cancer research. Do the math. That’s some $920 million on breast cancer research and a mere $288 million to study lung cancer—and that includes the 90,000 men who also died of lung cancer.

My question is this: If lung cancer is the deadliest form of cancer, why so little money devoted to researching discovering effective lung cancer treatments? The simple truth is that there is a stigma attached to lung cancer. Because it is so closely associated with smoking, there is an assumption that lung cancer victims are responsible for their own illnesses. While the argument can be made that there is a variety of lifestyle choices that contribute to all kinds of cancers, lung cancer victims seem to be particularly singled out for theirs.

But even if that were a valid reason (and it’s not) for shortchanging lung cancer research, it can’t account for the growing numbers of nonsmoking women who are being diagnosed with lung cancer.

It’s been a little over a year since Dana Reeve died from lung cancer. From the time she went public with her diagnosis in August of 2005 until her death in March of 2006 there was some attention focused on this disturbing new trend. Current studies estimate that 1 in 5 women with lung cancer have never smoked (my mother is in that category) and that number is growing. On that horrible day we heard my mother’s diagnosis, her oncologist told us that the story about lung cancer and women is only just beginning to be written.

It’s time to add lung cancer needs to the list of women’s cancers. We need ribbons and walks and, most importantly, we need funding.

I’m grateful for the work that has been done to help us treat women’s cancers. In fact, one of the chemotherapy drugs being used to treat my mother was originally approved to treat ovarian cancer. In a very real sense, research on a particular cancer adds to the body of knowledge on all cancers. Lung cancer is one of the hardest cancers to treat effectively. One can only imagine what the development of effective treatments for lung cancer might add to the treatment arsenals for other cancers.

The truth is that the news my mother heard in January was not all the different that the news Elizabeth Edwards just got. One may have breast cancer while the other’s cancer is in the lungs, but when you hear that cancer has spread or that it’s “incurable but treatable,” you understand that the basic issues of human survival are fundamentally the same. But the numbers are different. In my family both my grandmothers, five of my aunts, and my mother all had breast cancer and not one of them died from it. I’m hoping to be able to say the same thing about my lung cancer and my mother.

In the coming weeks and months a lot of attention will be focused on breast cancer research and treatments as we root for Elizabeth Edwards to win her battle. But let’s not forget that there is another beast that needs to be slain and if we can develop the treatments to beat lung cancer, we will take a much larger step towards winning the war against cancer once and for all.

The article was published with a few edits in this morning's (Sunday, April 1)Mobile Press Register. Link is at the end of this post.

I have already received an email from a woman asking if we can join forces to raise money for Lung CAncer research--YES! http://www.al.com/opinion/press-register/index.ssf?/base/opinion/117541929577050.xml&coll=3

Published again today in the Montgomery Advertiser.

http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/app ... 12/OPINION

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Thank you for writing such an informative and motivating piece. My sister was also a never-smoker and died from this horrible disease only 5 months after diagnosis. I hope your words are read by those who will be making financial decisions in lung cancer research funding. Well done!! Ellie

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