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The 3rd annual Women’s Lung Health Barometer results were released on October 25, 2016.

The State of Lung Cancer in Women

Despite sobering statistics, lung cancer remains a silent epidemic. The disease has the horrible distinction of both impacting a tremendous number of people (more than 106,000 American women estimated to be diagnosed this year alone) and bringing with it a distressingly low five-year survival rate of only 18 percent, among the lowest of all cancers.

While there are many misconceptions about this disease, the fact is that anyone can get lung cancer. Every day, over 400 of our friends, neighbors and loved ones lose their battle with lung cancer, with a new diagnosis occurring every 2½ minutes. The alarming statistics make it clear that we must do more to address this critical public health issue for all.

Women's Lung Health barometer: 3rd Annual Report

Not only is it the number one cancer killer of women, but lung cancer takes the lives of more women than any other cancer. Yet, according to the American Lung Association's 3rd annual Women's Lung Health Barometer — a survey of over 1,000 American adult women that measures their awareness, knowledge and perceptions about lung cancer — 98 percent of women do not have lung cancer on their health radar.

Lung Cancer Awareness Remains Critically Low Despite Being the #1 Cancer Killer of Women

Awareness is critical because if lung cancer is caught before it spreads, the likelihood of survival more than triples. Sadly, the Women's Lung Health Barometer found that less than half of women considered high risk have spoken to their doctor about lung cancer, despite it being such a deadly disease.

Our Voices and Message are Starting to be Heard

Our collective voices are making a difference. Since the first Women's Lung Health Barometer in 2014, there have been positive shifts in women's perceptions of lung cancer. Women have become 35 percent more likely to speak to their doctor about lung cancer over the last year. In fact, women are more likely to have spoken to their doctor about all major cancers, including lung cancer (23 percent vs. 17 percent in 2015), but most women (71 percent) still believe that not enough is being done to raise awareness for lung cancer.

Additionally, women also now know more about the different causes of lung cancer. Women have become increasingly aware that radon and air pollution cause lung cancer (75 percent vs. 69 percent in 2014) – allowing them to better protect themselves and their families.

More Lung Cancer Research Funding is Needed to Make a Difference

Unfortunately, today most lung cancer cases are not diagnosed until later stages when treatment options are limited. Less than 20 percent of lung cancer cases among women are diagnosed early when the disease is most treatable. Three out of five women incorrectly believe, or are not sure, that lung cancer has a similar survival rate to other cancers, when in fact lung cancer survival rates are about five times lower than other major cancers.

According to the Barometer findings, the fact that 77 percent of women with lung cancer are diagnosed in later stages and that today only people at high risk can be screened is particularly motivating for women. After learning this fact, virtually all women agree that investments should be made to develop new treatments, early detection methods and prevention methods. Additionally, 84 percent are motivated to donate to initiatives that support research for early detection of lung cancer for those who are not at high risk, including 43 percent who are very motivated.

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Women are Ready to Take Action and Share Their Voices

When women learn the truth about lung cancer — especially the shocking mortality facts — they are more likely to take action to address lung cancer. Once educated about the facts, four out of five women say they are likely to seek out more information, tell their friends and speak with their doctor about the disease.

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More new treatment options and early detection methods are needed to help the more than 72,000 women who will lose their lives to lung cancer this year alone. Lung cancer research must be prioritized in our nation's cancer research agenda, starting with robust and sustained federal funding from the National Institutes of Health. The American Lung Association advocates for a significant increase in the NIH's overall research budget and is calling on the NIH to increase funding for lung cancer research from $362 million to $450 million by 2020. Research priorities should include better ways to detect lung cancer at an earlier, treatable stage and improved treatments for all stages of lung cancer.

We are at the precipice of change in the fight against lung cancer and our determination to win this fight has never been stronger. LUNG FORCE is helping to advance this cause and show that the collective strength of many sharing their voice can make a measurable difference in this lifesaving fight to defeat lung cancer.


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