HONOLULU, HI | June 15, 2020
Lung cancer is the nation’s leading cause of cancer deaths for both women and men. Hawaii is no exception; lung cancer is expected to take the lives of more than 500 Hawaii residents while nearly 900 more will be diagnosed with the disease. COVID-19, also a lung illness, has exponentially increased the risks of people living with lung cancer. Despite these alarming statistics, awareness about the disease, its risk factors and those getting screened for the disease remain critically low. The American Lung Association in Hawaii is now recruiting people from throughout the islands to wear turquoise in June for Lung Cancer Awareness Month through the new I Wear Turquoise! Campaign. The campaign relies on local business and social leaders to raise awareness and funds within social and professional networks to end the disease and advocate for increased lung cancer screenings for those at highest risk. The campaign also aims to raise funds for the American Lung Association’s COVID-19 Action Initiative, its research effort to find a cure for COVID-19 and prepare for future lung pandemics.
“Lung cancer tends to be so deadly because by the time symptoms are apparent, it may already have spread and become more difficult to treat,” said Pedro Haro, Executive Director of the American Lung Association in Hawaii. “Awareness of the disease and the ability to speak with your doctor about your risk and if you might be eligible for lung cancer screening can be a game changer. It’s particularly important to get this message across during this time of COVID-19.”
Lung cancer screening leads to diagnoses of the disease at an early stage, when it is much more likely to be curable. If everyone who was eligible were screened, an estimated 25,000 lives each year could be saved. While screening is currently recommended for former and current smokers who meet certain criteria, risk factors for lung cancer include smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke, radon gas and air pollution.
Lung cancer is the number one cancer killer in the U.S., and in the last 43 years new lung cancer cases have increased 87 percent among women, while falling 35 percent for men. Turquoise is the signature color of the American Lung Association’s LUNG FORCE - an initiative designed to unite the nation against lung cancer. I Wear Turquoise! is an important effort to bring the people of Hawaii to the table to raise awareness about the disease and stand with and for the all those with or at high risk of lung cancer.
This important campaign hopes to raise $50,000 through recruitment of community leaders from a variety of fields, including medicine, business, and nonprofit sectors. These leaders are known as Turquoise Ambassadors who are using their influence and networks to raise funds for the Lung Association.
Cheryl Oncea, publisher for Hawaii Business Magazine, is on the Local Leadership Board of the Lung Association and is one of its Turquoise Ambassadors. Oncea's mom lived for 24 years after being diagnosed with lung cancer. "I believe we were blessed that my mother received such high-quality health care and was able to benefit from protocols that could not have been developed without the research that is so vitally supported by the American Lung Association," said Oncea. "We are trying to save lives with this campaign, and we are trying to increase the quality years of life of those who are surviving lung illness."
Donations are being accepted through the campaign’s website, http://action.lung.org/IWTHawaii, and the Lung Association has partnered with KITV 4 Island News to achieve a “Turquoise Takeover”. The week of June 14-21, KITV anchors will be wearing turquoise and well a providing information and public service announcements about life-saving tips for lung cancer screening.
The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease through education, advocacy and research. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to champion clean air for all; to improve the quality of life for those with lung disease and their families; and to create a tobacco-free future. For more information about the American Lung Association, which has a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and is a Gold-Level GuideStar Member, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: Lung.org.
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