By Representative Rick Nolan (MN)
Every year, we lose tens of thousands of lives to lung cancer – the world’s most lethal cancer. The simple truth is despite this disease’s impact on smokers, non-smokers and veterans alike, blame and stigma have unfortunately put lung cancer on the back burner when it comes to dedicating resources to prevention, treatment and a cure.
Lung cancer is a terrible disease that has affected so many families, including my own. Anyone with lungs can get lung cancer. When my youngest daughter, Katherine Bensen, was diagnosed with stage IV non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), I decided to spearhead the effort to create the Congressional Lung Cancer Caucus, which is dedicated to eliminating the stigma, reducing mortality, improving survivorship, furthering research and ensuring equitable access to preventive screening, treatments, diagnostics and testing.
Regardless of people’s personal, medical or military history, patients are often left alone to navigate an all-too-often unsympathetic healthcare industry. That’s why we are so grateful for the collaborative coalition now provided by the Lung Cancer Alliance and the newly formed Congressional Lung Cancer Caucus. Patients fighting for their lives must have more support – especially when they face so many challenges in their care. The Lung Cancer Alliance provides invaluable services to aid fighting cancer. Under their care, individuals and advocates can receive the information and support they need.
We are proud to join the Lung Cancer Alliance in making lung cancer research a priority, which is why we are working to increase research funding and reduce stigma through our establishment of the Congressional Lung Cancer Caucus — finally taking a much needed step forward after decades of stagnation. Our bipartisan caucus will raise the profile of lung cancer and serve as a clearinghouse of information to aid members of Congress in their understanding of lung cancer and how to fight it.
The Congress is making progress in funding for lung cancer research. In July, the House passed the 21st Century Cures Act – which I cosponsored and strongly supported – which will dedicate millions more a year to lung cancer research as part of the National Cancer Institute’s $5.4 billion annual cancer research package and expedite the new drug treatment approval process.
But unlike other cancers, until recently, survival rates of lung cancer haven’t improved since the ‘70s – largely because the stigma still associated with the disease has stunted research. Lung cancer kills more people than colon, breast and prostate cancers combined. Yet government officials often fail to realize the unnecessary suffering of both veterans and civilians caused by the lack of funding. Veterans serving in the armed forces from World War II through the Gulf War were exposed to lung cancer causing substances like asbestos and Agent Orange. As a result, veterans are much more likely to have lung cancer and to die from it.
As a nation, we have a duty to all Americans afflicted with lung cancer. It’s about time we dedicate the appropriate resources to prevention, treatment and a cure for this terrible disease. Please join us in fulfilling that obligation by raising awareness, advancing research and supporting the Congressional Lung Cancer Caucus.
You can help the Lung Cancer Caucus grow! Click here to ask your Member of Congress to join today!