When I became a patient advocate for people diagnosed with lung cancer 10 years ago, it would be very rare to hear of someone living well with lung cancer. My dad was diagnosed in 2002 and there were many misconceptions, very few treatment options and no support or empathy for people affected by the disease in our community.
The idea that lung cancer was simply a smoker’s disease is still a common misconception today. There were many resources on quitting smoking and many anti-tobacco campaigns but there wasn’t a single lung cancer support group in my state — or any state at that time!
Causes of Lung Cancer
While smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer, it’s not the only cause. Carcinogens, radon, asbestos and a familial history of cancer can be a cause. Sometimes people with no risk factors at all are diagnosed with lung cancer. Over 60% of people diagnosed with lung cancer are never smokers and nonsmokers who quit smoking decades ago. Simply quitting smoking or never starting at all won’t prevent you from getting lung cancer. We need to support everyone with lung cancer, regardless of their smoking history.
I started seeing a shift in perception when organizations like LUNGevity began putting a real face on lung cancer, offering support resources for patients, caregivers and families and put a dedicated focus on funding research into early detection and targeted therapies for the disease.
I’m meeting more and more survivors and people living life well with lung cancer. Why? These are the important aspects that have helped today’s lung cancer community to thrive:
- Support from in person support groups and online resources.
- Access to information and education on the disease and can connect to experts to ask questions.
- Clinical trial information and shown ways that they can advocate for themselves.
What does it mean to live life well with lung cancer? It means that however long your life is, one day or thousands of days, you are living it well despite having a lung cancer diagnosis. It means that whether or not your cancer goes into remission you are being supported every step of the way from the moment of diagnoses to end of life issues. And the encouraging news is that more people are learning to live life after lung cancer treatment ends, with no evidence of disease. Your survivorship doesn’t end when treatment does. Through organizations like LUNGevity, patients and caregivers are being given a roadmap to lung cancer survivorship.