Ten years ago, the American Lung Association launched LUNG FORCE in the hopes of uniting those impacted by lung cancer and their caregivers. The vision was not only to create a community but to raise awareness and inspire action to defeat the leading cancer killer.

In 2014, LUNG FORCE specifically targeted women because lung cancer rated among this group had increased dramatically. In fact, at that time, only one in five women who were diagnosed with lung cancer were likely to survive. Additionally, woman were the primary decision makers when it comes to healthcare, with more than 80% claiming responsibility for their loved one’s health.

Since then, we have seen a dramatic improvement, with the lung cancer survival rate increasing by 52% in both men and women. In honor of this legacy of success, we look back at some of the biggest LUNG FORCE programs.

Creating a Community

Part of the 2014 launch was creating a safe space for those affected by lung cancer to share their stories. Named LUNG FORCE Heroes, over 2,000 lung cancer patients and caregivers have told their stories online and in person. LUNG FORCE events, like Walks and Runs, have created a greater platform for these stories and given Heroes the opportunity to construct a strong community through shared experiences. As its signature event, LUNG FORCE Walks and Run/Walks are particularly popular, with over 36 locations and over 17,000 participants. But many other events have been created, giving over 250,000 patients and caregivers a place to gather.

“It was only after I got involved with the LUNG FORCE Walk that I met and interacted with people who understood all the things—both physically and mentally—I was going through as a caregiver and daughter of a lung cancer patient. Likewise, my mother was able to meet other patients and keep in touch with them throughout her journey. The Walk provided my mother, myself, and my family with a network of people we could relate to,” LUNG FORCE Hero Isabella explained.

Lung Force Heroes cheering during a Lung Force Walk

The annual Turquoise Takeover and Lung Cancer Action Week celebration (May 6-12, 2024) looks to expand this community by encouraging all Americans to unite against lung cancer. Each year, major landmarks turn turquoise, LUNG FORCE’s signature color, to inspire action and save more lives.

Raising Funds for Research

Since its inception, LUNG FORCE Heroes have worked tirelessly to raise funds and awareness for lung cancer research. In conjunction with other American Lung Association initiatives, over $30 million in lung cancer research has been raised. This research funding has been critical in helping develop new therapies that benefit those impacted by this disease. In fact, 55 new therapies have been approved by the FDA to treat lung cancer – giving life and hope to those living with the disease.

“I believe that the cure is out there, we just need the funding and the research to get make it available to everyone. And working with the Lung Association works and gives me purpose,” LUNG FORCE Hero Rona explains. You can read her full story online.

Launching Saved by the Scan

One of the greatest detriments to lung cancer survival is late detection, as late-stage lung cancer is less curable. That is why the availability of the low dose CT scan for former smokers was a game changer. The problem is that many people, even if they were eligible, don’t know about the lifesaving scan. So, in 2017, LUNG FORCE teamed up with the Ad Council to tackle this problem. The result was the “Saved by the Scan” campaign. Aside from raising awareness, it encouraged people to take the screening eligibility quiz. Since then, over one million people in the U.S. have taken the quiz, with about 25% of those who took the quiz being eligible for screening and needing a doctor follow-up.

In addition, LUNG FORCE partnered with the American Thoracic Society to create a first-of-its-kind Lung Cancer Screening Implementation Guide in 2018 to help community hospitals and healthcare systems implement lung cancer screening programs. 

The impact of the award-winning campaign is measurable. Currently, 41% of former smokers are aware of the low-dose CT scan and 30% are willing to ask their doctor about screening. In addition, lung cancer screening rates among those eligible have increased by 170%. “If I had not acted on getting the lung scan done, I would not have known that lung cancer was growing in my body since I had absolutely no symptoms. I will forever be grateful to that billboard,” said LUNG FORCE Hero Diane W.

Advocating for Change

“Anyone can quote statistics and scientific information, but I feel like it is not until they can put a human face on it and see the raw emotions that the message really sinks in,” LUNG FORCE Hero Ellen said. Every year since 2016, she and hundreds of LUNG FORCE Heroes have come together from across the country to urge their members of Congress in Washington, D.C., to support robust, sustainable and predictable federal funding increases for lung cancer research and public health funding.  

Lung Force hero speaking at advocacy day

LUNG FORCE has helped to secure a 130% increase in NIH lung cancer research funding (since FY13) and helped defend Medicaid from work requirements, which would have led millions of patients to lose healthcare coverage due to burdensome paperwork, during the debt ceiling negotiations. This was one of our asks at our 2023 LUNG FORCE Advocacy Day, and we produced a powerful video with our LUNG FORCE Hero Lysa about the importance of protecting Medicaid coverage for individuals living with lung cancer.

In the last 10 years, LUNG FORCE has helped move the needle toward a world without the plague of lung cancer. We continue our mission and hope that you will join us in this noble pursuit. Learn more about LUNG FORCE and how to participate in Turquoise Takeover.

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