Dying for Awareness: The Lung Cancer Issue | American Lung Association

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Dying for Awareness: The Lung Cancer Issue

We are pleased to feature a post from Bryan Hanson, President, Minimally Invasive Therapies Group at Medtronic. Medtronic is the Educational Sponsor of LUNG FORCE. Through the social media links on the left of this page, Medtronic will donate $1* for every Facebook Like, Facebook Share, Tweet or LinkedIn post of this blog post throughout November.

(November 17, 2015)

With twenty plus years in healthcare, not much shocks me. But, lung cancer—lung cancer is a different story.

When I learned that lung cancer is the number one cause of cancer-related deaths for women, I admit I was astounded. I thought it had to be breast cancer—breast cancer gets so much attention. But no. It really is lung cancer. In fact, each year lung cancer kills more people than breast, prostate and colon cancers combined. The statistics are staggering.

While almost 90 percent of breast cancer patients live past five years, only 17 percent of lung cancer patients do. Why? In large part, lung cancer isn't diagnosed until the late stages of the disease. And, the ugly truth is that anyone can get lung cancer.

Lung cancer has very few, if any, symptoms early on; that's why the disease is so deadly. Doctors often find it when looking for something else. Even though lung cancer is the number one cancer killer, we often find it accidentally.

Not only that, but the care pathway for patients identified with "spots on their lung" by chest X-rays or CT scans is often poorly understood. Many patients with these non-specific findings don't get the appropriate follow-up they need. This can be attributed to the lack of awareness by patients or their providers that further evaluation is necessary.

The following is a true story and one we would like to see more of: lung cancer detected early, resulting in a positive outcome. Unfortunately, this is all too often not the case. Picture this: LeAnne Bonser, a young mother of two beautiful girls, both under the age of eight, is an avid marathon runner and a picture of health. But one night, she woke up coughing up blood. She was rushed to the ER and a CT scan identified a "spot" on her lung. After a series of tests, she was diagnosed with stage 1 lung cancer. Initially a surgeon recommended a traditional open surgical procedure, which would require an incision, broken ribs and a long recovery time.

Faced with these facts, LeAnne wanted another choice. Thankfully, her early-stage diagnosis gave her several treatment options including minimally invasive surgery (MIS). She searched for and found a doctor who specializes in MIS procedures of the lung. As a result of this less invasive approach, she was discharged from the hospital in two days and was back to running only two weeks following the procedure. I'm thrilled to say that six months later, LeAnne ran a full marathon.

LeAnne's story is a prime example of how earlier diagnosis and less invasive treatment of lung cancer are game changers, which is tremendous news. If we diagnose the disease early (stage 1) the survival rate after five years could more than triple. That's absolutely amazing, which is why we at Medtronic believe the healthcare system needs to commit to improving the lung health standard of care with a focus on early diagnosis and care management that smoothly guides a patient from diagnosis to treatment and recovery.

In the last several years, we've made progress. Policymakers have issued guidance expanding coverage of lung cancer screening. And, the American Lung Association is building greater awareness in the hopes of driving increased funding for educational resources and research initiatives to reduce the devastating mortality rate caused by this disease.

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month and Medtronic is supporting the American Lung Association's LUNG FORCE in its efforts to raise awareness and critical funds for lung cancer research and education. 

I challenge you to use your social channels to spread awareness of lung cancer and the importance of early detection. Through the social media links at the left of this page, Medtronic will donate $1* for every Facebook Like, Facebook Share, Tweet or LinkedIn post of this blog post throughout November.

Together, we must change the outlook of lung cancer and improve lung health. Early detection is critical—finding and treating lung cancer in stages 1 or 2 can make all the difference—as it did for LeAnne.

—Bryan

*Medtronic will donate to American Lung Association a minimum of $15,000 and a maximum of $25,000.

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