Lung cancer kills more people each year than breast, colon, pancreatic and prostate cancer combined. Driving awareness of these startling statistics is essential to helping people realize just how prevalent lung cancer is and that it can affect anyone – in fact, about two thirds of lung cancer patients are former smokers or have never smoked.
Luckily, organizations like the American Lung Association are partnering with companies like CVS Health to fund and bring innovative treatments to the forefront to help people fight lung cancer and bring us one step closer to finding a cure. Their research builds healthier futures by bringing together the most innovative and inquisitive scientific minds to create a world free of lung disease for future generations.
Susan J. Rappaport, MPH, Vice President of Research and Scientific Affairs for the American Lung Association, is on the front lines of fighting lung cancer. She recently reflected on her time with the Lung Association, advancements in the field and what people really need to know about lung cancer:
I joined the American Lung Association in 1982 after seeing an advertisement about an opening in the Lung Association’s Epidemiology and Statistics Unit. I had spent the past few years investigating the relationship between changes in the weather and emergency room visits by people with asthma and I felt that by joining the Lung Association, I could further my knowledge of lung disease, and continue to study the environment and its impact. I’m happy to say that I have, for 34 years!
The rate of new lung cancer cases among women has almost doubled in the last 38 years.While this is a shocking statistic, one way this high incidence will decrease is through increased early detection. When widely implemented, lung cancer screening reduces lung cancer mortality by causing lung cancer to be detected at an earlier, more treatable stage. This “stage shift” in diagnosis should increase survival rates significantly. We know that when you find lung cancer earlier, it’s easier to treat.
Over the course of my career, a lot of progress has been made in the field of lung cancer research. Most recently, some of the most promising advancement is in the field of immunology. Immunotherapy uses drugs that help your own immune system fight the cancer. I’m also extremely excited about new research into non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). This research continues to enhance our understanding of NSCLC from a single entity to a disease comprised of many genetically and clinically distinct groups.
Additionally, there is a lot of great lung cancer research that is looking at genomics to attack lung cancer, including research that the American Lung Association is actively funding, as well as overcoming acquired drug resistance to new targeted therapies.
The American Lung Association is also currently funding investigations to ensure that the real-world implementation of screening mirrors the success seen in the landmark National Lung Screening Trial, where lung cancer deaths were reduced by 20 percent. This study will examine screening in a real-world setting, with the goal of improving the effectiveness of lung cancer screening implementation and narrowing the differences in lung cancer mortality between different racial groups.
There is a lot of progress being made and developments on the horizon, but increased awareness and education are as important as ever. For anyone who is looking to educate themselves about lung cancer, I encourage you to visit LUNGFORCE.org. There, you can learn about incidence rates, share your story, support research and participate in LUNG FORCE walks and other American Lung Association events. LUNGFORCE.org also includes educational opportunities to better understand lung cancer, and resources for both patients and caregivers.
In support of Susan’s research and the work of many more ALA scientists, CVS Pharmacy locations nationwide are now accepting customer donations through June 11, 2016, at the register or online at at www.cvs.com/lung with all proceeds supporting LUNG FORCE. Funds raised through the in-store campaign will support health education and critical research that will lead to better treatment options and improved methods of early lung cancer detection.