If you ask people what a pink ribbon stands for, they may give you a funny look and wonder how long you have had your head buried in the sand. Who doesn’t know that pink ribbons are used for breast cancer awareness? But I wonder how many people know what a white ribbon stands for, or when was the last time they saw one. The white ribbon can look invisible and be invisible, but this cannot hide the harsh fact it represents the number one cancer killer in the United States – lung cancer.
Lung cancer is an aggressive disease and is most often detected in its later stages when it is difficult or impossible to cure. Its association with cigarette smoking has given lung cancer a stigma that other cancers lack. While most people know that smoking can cause lung cancer, they may not know just how deadly it is. The American Cancer Society estimates at least 80% of lung cancer deaths are caused by smoking.
In addition to smoking, other risk factors for lung cancer include:
Lung cancer’s mortality has been attributed to a lack of symptoms in early stage disease, or to the symptoms being mistaken for an infection or the common cold. And historically, there hasn’t been a reliable screening test for lung cancer. However a promising development came from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force this past summer. This task force is composed of physician experts who review medical research and make recommendations based upon their findings. They issued a draft recommendation supporting yearly CT scans for persons at “high risk” of developing lung cancer. Those who are considered to be “high risk” are adults ages 55 through 80, who have a 30 pack-year history of smoking or who have quit in the past 15 years.
If you or a loved one fit these criteria, please talk to your health care provider about being screened for lung cancer. The University of Michigan offers a dedicated Lung Cancer Screening Clinic.
If you are a smoker, the single most important thing you can do to reduce your chance of developing lung cancer is to quit smoking. Not only will you help yourself but you will help anyone who lives with you by reducing their exposure to second hand smoke. Quitting is not easy and often people need to try to quit more than once. The good news is there are many services and programs to help those with a desire to quit. Make sure to share your interest in quitting with family, friends, co-workers, and anyone else who can help support you in your efforts.
U-M Cancer Center: Lung Cancer Screening Guide
U-M Health System: Tobacco Consultation Service
American Cancer Society: Guide to Quitting Smoking
American Lung Association: How to Quit Smoking
Nicotine Anonymous (NicA) or call its toll-free number: 1-877-879-6422 (1-877-TRY-NICA)
The Cancer AnswerLine™ nurses are experienced in oncology care, including helping patients and their families who have questions about cancer. These registered oncology nurses are available by calling 800-865-1125 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. Your call is always free and confidential.
The University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center’s 1,000 doctors, nurses, care givers and researchers are united by one thought: to deliver the highest quality, compassionate care while working to conquer cancer through innovation and collaboration. The center is among the top-ranked national cancer programs, and #1 in Michigan for cancer patient care. Seventeen multidisciplinary clinics offer one-stop access to teams of specialists for personalized treatment plans, part of the ideal patient care experience. Patients also benefit through access to promising new cancer therapies.