Thank you AstraZeneca for sponsoring this post. November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. Now more than ever, there is reason for hope. Please visit LIVE W.E.L.L. and LVNG With Lung Cancer for more information.
Lung Cancer Awareness Month
Did you know that November is national Lung Cancer Awareness Month? Having lost both my father and my grandfather to lung cancer, lung cancer awareness is a topic that hits very close to home.
Throughout this post you will find a few of my favorite family pictures — cherished memories of my father and the joy he brought into our lives. I miss him every day.
This November, in honor of Lung Cancer Awareness Month, I would like to help raise awareness by sharing important information that relates to lung cancer.
I hope that this post helps to provide valuable resources, as well as give hope, to those living with cancer and their families.
Prevalence of Lung Cancer
In the United States, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women, accounting for approximately 154,000 deaths each year and about one-quarter of all cancer deaths – more than breast, prostate and colorectal cancers combined.
Lung cancer is not just one disease; about 80 to 85 percent have non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and about 10 to 15 percent of patients have small cell lung cancer, and each category has many different subtypes within it. Because there are different types of lung cancer, when someone is diagnosed, it’s important to understand the specific characteristics of the disease, so they can find out which types of treatment are most appropriate for them. This is the crux of “personalized medicine” – ensuring each patient is treated according to the specific characteristics of their unique diagnosis.
The Importance of Personalized Medicine
Lung cancers have certain “biomarkers,” which are unique traits of each individual lung cancer that can help patients and their doctors understand its specific characteristics and can play a role in determining what types of medicines the cancer is most likely to respond to. Biomarkers can be identified through “biomarker testing” to inform treatment approaches for each patient. This is often considered a form of “personalized medicine,” which includes treatments specially designed for certain tumor characteristics. Personalized medicines include targeted treatments for lung cancer with certain biomarkers, such as the epidermal growth factor (EGFR) mutation. EGFR is a protein found on the surface of some cells to which epidermal growth factor binds, causing the cells to divide. It is a common mutation of NSCLC, for which targeted medicines are available.
Lung cancer treatment is a big decision, and patients deserve the best option for them from the get-go. Just as a team coach wants to draft the best player first rather than wait until a later draft round, there is no type of cancer where you shouldn’t choose your best option first for your specific type of disease. In order to get the best first, you have to test first.
Although a critical factor, the choice of treatment comes down to more than just the effectiveness of a medicine – it can also depend on if and where the cancer has spread, like the brain for example, and the safety, tolerability and convenience of a given therapy. All these factors can help dictate what the best option may be, with the goal of living significantly longer without tumors spreading, while being able to truly live life with lung cancer.
Given the complexity of these decisions, it is also very important for patients to have a comprehensive medical team that they trust, comprised of nurses, oncologists, surgeons, pathologists, and more. Each part of the medical team has a unique expertise and can provide critical insight throughout the treatment journey.
The bottom line is that patients should be their own advocates: get tested for the right treatment options, wait for the results and start on the best option first.
Help Spread The Message
Lung Cancer Awareness Month is the perfect time for sharing the importance of truly understanding a lung cancer diagnosis and all of the treatment options available.
If you know someone diagnosed with lung cancer, urge them to arm themselves with knowledge, have conversations with their health care providers, and be their own advocate. That way, they can find the treatment option that is right for them.
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.