Can We Talk? About Lung Cancer?

Our passionate advocate, Sheila Ross

by: Sheila Ross, 14 year survivor and advocate for Lung Cancer Alliance

A memorial showing of a 2010 documentary on Joan Rivers was aired by American Masters on September 23, nineteen days after her death.  During a sequence in which she is urging her daughter, Melissa, to stop smoking, Joan says: “I went to a pulmonary guy today…he said…more women are dying of lung cancer than breast cancer and nobody is discussing it…”

Not “nobody,” Joan. Some people are. More each year, but still not enough.  Why aren’t they?

Based on the National Cancer Institute’s most recently updated estimates, as of 1/1/11 there were about 2.9 million women then alive who had been diagnosed at some point in their lives with breast cancer. That’s 13 times more than the 219,000 women then alive who have been diagnosed at some point with lung cancer.

These 220,000 cannot do it alone. Many of them are too sick or depressed to even try.

About 160,000 people a year die of lung cancer –  70,000 of them women – nearly twice as many as breast cancer. So lung cancer has touched millions of families and friends. Why aren’t they speaking out?

Why doesn’t the 2.9 million strong breast cancer community show more empathy about the biggest cancer killer of women? Why didn’t Joan speak out when she learned the truth? She said it “scared the bejeezus out of me.” Us too.

This October, while pink overshadows the statistics and companies profit from “pinkness,” why don’t we in the lung cancer community try to get answers to those questions instead of just- as Joan would say – “b—ing.”

So, can we talk?