Two out of every three Americans know someone stricken by lung cancer

Two out of every three Americans know someone stricken by lung cancer, yet more than half of Americans don't realize that lung cancer is among the most lethal of cancers, according to a nationwide survey conducted on behalf of The Lung Cancer Online Foundation. The survey highlights the impact this deadly disease has on Americans.

"These data confirm that most Americans are deeply impacted by lung cancer," said Karen Parles, lung cancer patient and founder of The Lung Cancer Online Foundation. "In spite of the fact that most Americans have been personally touched by lung cancer, funding for lung cancer research remains only a tiny fraction of the nation's cancer research budget. It is appropriate that the lung cancer awareness ribbon is clear, signifying the almost invisible status of this devastating and stigmatized disease."

According to the American Cancer Society, lung cancer is expected to kill 160,440 people in the United States during 2004. The next most deadly cancer is breast cancer, forecast to claim 40,110 people this year. For patients diagnosed with the most advanced stage of lung cancer, the estimated five-year survival rate is 1 percent and lung cancer kills more Americans each year than breast, prostate and colorectal cancer combined. With early diagnosis, the chances of surviving lung cancer are greatly increased. The five-year survival rate for Stage I lung cancer is 39 to 67 percent.

Key survey findings:

  • 64 percent of respondents said they knew at least one or more people with lung cancer,
  • One-fourth (26 percent) of Americans know three or more people
  • 16 percent know two people
  • 21 percent know one person
  • 57 percent of respondents did not know that lung cancer is the most deadly cancer in the United States
  • More than one-third (37 percent) expect a lung cancer patient to live one year or less
  • Nearly half (46 percent) believe a lung cancer patient will live more than one year.

While progress has been made in treating lung cancer with more new therapies available, mortality rates remain high; yet, lung cancer remains underfunded compared with other common cancers. According to the National Cancer Institute, estimated spending in 2003 was approximately $1,632 per lung cancer death, compared to $14,045 per breast cancer death, $10,761 per prostate cancer death, and $4,676 per colorectal cancer death.

"Because tobacco smoking causes lung cancer and because the outcome for patients with lung cancer has been poor, there is considerable pessimism regarding research, prevention, early detection and treatment," said Dr. Paul Bunn, director of the University of Colorado Cancer Center. "In reality, progress has been made, the survival rates are better and treatments are less toxic. Now is the time to abandon the pessimism, promote research and move forward."

The telephone survey of 1,029 people represents a statistical sample of the U.S. population. It was conducted by ORC International from October 8-11, 2004 through a grant from Genentech Inc. and OSI Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

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