The second full week of May marks National Women’s Lung Health Week (May 12-18), a time to promote awareness of lung cancer and other lung diseases among women and to celebrate cancer survivors. The American Lung Association (ALA) sponsors several events during this week, which include wearing bright blue for the Turquoise Takeover, and fundraising walks to raise money for cancer research.
The American Lung Association also supports LUNG FORCE, a movement to bring women together to fight against lung cancer. This group encourages cancer survivors and their families to tell their stories and share them via social media.
Lung cancer is a devastating disease that kills more women and men in the United States than any other cancer. In fact, lung cancer takes more women’s lives than even breast cancer. Over past 4 decades, lung cancer rates have fallen among men, but gone up 87% among women. At the same time, many women do not consider this cancer to be a primary health concern.
National Women’s Lung Health Week: Awareness Initiatives
One of LUNG FORCE’s goals of is to build widespread public understanding that anyone can get lung cancer. The group offers help to people who want to quit smoking, and works to create smoke-free workplaces and other environments, reducing secondhand smoke exposure. LUNG FORCE also supports initiatives to reduce air pollution, another primary risk factor for lung cancer.
Other projects include advocating early screening for people who are at high risk of developing lung cancer, and funding lung cancer research grants to study new – and better – treatment methods. LUNG FORCE sponsors a lung cancer help line to assist survivors and caregivers, and a lung cancer survivors online support group. This social media forum allows people whose lives have been affected by the disease to share stories and advice with an understanding community.
Importantly, LUNG FORCE is also working to take the stigma away from lung cancer. After a cancer diagnosis, smokers may feel that some people believe they deserve the disease due to their health habits.
LUNG FORCE emphasizes support for everyone affected by lung cancer: smokers, nonsmokers, and people who want to quit smoking. Since those who have never smoked can get lung cancer, too, it is crucial to focus on curing the disease and not blaming individuals.
In recent years, a growing number of women have been diagnosed with lung cancer. By the statistics, at least one woman is given this difficult news every 5 minutes, and a woman dies from lung cancer every 7.5 minutes. More women than men develop lung cancer when they are nonsmokers, and do not have other clear risk factors for the disease.
With 234,000 new cases of lung cancer every year, even more American families are being affected by this disease. LUNG FORCE promotes lung cancer survivors, caregivers, and family members sharing stories of their loved ones on social media. These stories emphasize the need for more conversations around lung cancer, promoting early detection and the need for more research funding.
Other Causes of Lung Cancer
While smoking and air pollution are primary risk factors for lung cancer, another prominent cause is exposure to asbestos. This natural mineral was long used as an insulator and fire retardant in buildings, before it was publicly known to be a carcinogen.
Asbestos fibers are microscopic, can be inhaled and irritate the lungs, causing lung cancer and mesothelioma. This form of cancer takes 20-50 years to develop, meaning that individuals who have been exposed to asbestos may not know it for decades.
While asbestos is not widely used in construction materials today, it can still be found in auto parts such as brakes, and in older buildings including schools and homes. People are vulnerable to exposure if asbestos-containing materials are flaking or decaying within these structures. Additionally, those who work with or around asbestos can bring fibers home on clothing, and expose their families.
In the end, it is critical to be aware that anyone can develop lung cancer. National Women’s Lung Health Week is an important event for all Americans to remember how lung cancer may affect all of us, and how an ounce of prevention and early detection may be worth a pound of cure.