MADISON, Wisc.— Men and women worry about prostate and breast cancer, yet the number one cancer killer in the United States — lung cancer — isn’t on their radar. According to a survey released Tuesday by the National Lung Cancer Partnership, Americans know little about lung cancer’s causes, symptoms and the number of lives it takes compared to other cancers.
The survey of 1,000 American men and women age 18 and older found most women were unaware that lung cancer takes more women’s lives each year than breast cancer. And they weren’t alone — most men surveyed were unaware that lung cancer takes more men’s lives each year than prostate cancer.
“Lung cancer is by far the number one cancer killer in the United States, yet the disease isn’t on people’s radar,” said Regina Vidaver, Ph.D., executive director of the National Lung Cancer Partnership. “If we’re going to catch it early, treat it and give people the best chance for survival, they need to know about lung cancer and its symptoms, take measures to reduce their risk and talk with their doctor about their health history.”
The survey findings include:
— 80 percent of respondents did not know that lung cancer is the number one cancer killer in the United States.
— 83 percent of women surveyed did not know that lung cancer takes more women’s lives each year than breast cancer.
— 75 percent of men surveyed did not know that lung cancer takes more men’s lives each year than prostate cancer.
— Only 12 percent of respondents said they know the symptoms of lung cancer, which include a cough that won’t go away; pain in the back, chest or shoulders that won’t go away; shortness of breath; unexplained wheezing; and coughing up blood, among other symptoms.
— 88 percent of those surveyed did not know that radon was the second leading cause of lung cancer. Radon is a colorless, odorless radioactive gas that is formed by the natural decay of uranium in rock, soil, and water and can be found in all 50 states. Visit the EPA’s radon information and action website to learn more about how to protect yourself from this lung cancer risk.
— Only 6 percent of respondents said they had talked to their doctor about their risk for lung cancer.
— Only 32 percent of those surveyed understood that half of all lung cancers occur in people who have already quit smoking. This lack of awareness of continued risk after quitting smoking maymake people less likely to talk with their doctors about symptom recognition.
The survey did reveal some encouraging findings related to lung cancer awareness: according to the national advocacy organization, 98 percent of men and women recognized that lung cancer does not just affect people who smoke. This finding shows that Americans’ perception that only smokers get lung cancer seems to be fading, and further education on lung cancer risk factors such as radon, secondhand smoke and family history of cancer will be crucial to helping people take appropriate measures to protect their health.
Also, nearly half of the respondents said they’d be willing to participate in a clinical trial, which is critical to improving lung cancer treatment outcomes and helping people live longer, better lives. Resources, including a clinical trials finder and the patient education video: Stories of Strength: Making the Decision to Enter a Lung Cancer Clinical Trial, are available at NationalLungCancerPartnership.org.
“This survey holds both good and bad news about the current state of lung cancer awareness in the United States,” said Dr. Vidaver. “Awareness can help decrease cancer death rates, as recent studies have shown, so it’s never been more important for Americans to understand that lung cancer is the country’s number one cancer killer.”
The National Lung Cancer Partnership
The National Lung Cancer Partnership is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization made up of leading doctors, researchers, patient advocates, and lung cancer survivors dedicated to raising public awareness of the disease and generating funding for lung cancer research. For more information please visit NationalLungCancerPartnership.org
Survey results are based on a nationally representative sample of 1,000 U.S. women and men aged 18 and over. The survey was conducted online by Synovate in October 2010. Results have a margin of error of +/- 3 percentage points.