Thursday, November 16, 2000

Event adds lung cancer awareness

Hope tempers grim statistics

By Tim Bonfield
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Lung cancer hasn't been seen as a women's disease, even though it kills far more women every year than breast cancer.

        Lung cancer hasn't been seen as a treatable disease, even though statistics indicate early detection can save lives.

        In fact, lung cancer hasn't been seen as much of anything except a grim outcome of a lifetime of smoking.

        But this week, a coalition of health groups hopes an unprecedented public awareness campaign will help break years of stigma associated with the nation's leading cancer killer.

    Several Tristate organizations offer smoking cessation classes, including support groups, hypnosis, nicotine substitute products and other medications. For information about prescription anti-smoking drugs, contact your doctor or your health plan. For information about stop-smoking programs:
    • Nicotine Anonymous: 230-5475
    • American Lung Association: 985-3990
    • American Cancer Society: 891-1600
    • UC Center on Smoking and Alcohol Research: 475-OHIO
    • St. Luke Hospitals: (859) 572-3382
    • Mercy Health Partners: 95-MERCY or 853-5803
    • Children's Hospital Medical Center: 636-8586
    • Not on Tobacco (N.O.T.): 636-8595
    • Group Health Associates: 326-9453
    • Middletown Regional Hospital: (800) 237-6451
    • Behavior Science Center: 221-8545
    Several resources exist for people seeking more information about treatment, screening and support groups for lung cancer:
   • From 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, people nationwide can call a lung cancer information line at (877) 704-LUCA.
   • “Lung Cancer: There is Hope,” an information session sponsored by the Wellness Community; 11 a.m. Saturday at the Embassy Suites in Covington. Reservations required: 791-4060.
   • Sponsors of Lung Cancer Awareness Week have launched an information Web site at
   • The University of Cincinnati is one of eight research centers looking for genetic links to lung cancer by studying families with multiple cases of the disease. To participate, call 558-3120.
   • The Alliance for Lung Cancer Advocacy, Support and Education provides consumer information at (800) 298-2436 or through its Web site at

        America's first “Lung Cancer Awareness Week” includes network television appearances by fashion model Christy Turlington and musician Richard Marx, both of whom lost close relatives to lung cancer.

        Meanwhile, doctors and nurses in 19 cities, including Cincinnati, have scheduled meetings to talk about new treatments and screening options. There's a new Web site for consumers to try. Then on Friday, a national panel of experts will take calls all day from people concerned about lung cancer.

        The awareness campaign hopes to:

        • Win support for more lung cancer research.

        • Inform people about their options.

        • Change public attitudes about people with lung cancer.

        “Our message is: We don't care how you got lung cancer. The fact is, you've got cancer and you deserve the best support and care that's available,” said Vicki Kennedy, vice president of programs for the Wellness Community, a national health consumer group based in Cincinnati.

        “Unfortunately, a lot of people are not getting the right treatments and are not getting the support they need,” Ms. Kennedy said.

        Lung Cancer Awareness Week is sponsored by the Wellness Community, Cancer Care Inc. (a New York-based consumer support group), and the Oncology Nursing Society. The week overlaps today's Great American Smokeout, an annual event sponsored by the American Cancer Society to encourage people to quit smoking, the leading cause of lung cancer.

        While the day addresses a crucial way to prevent lung cancer, the focus on smoking cessation does little for the hundreds of thousands of people who already have lung cancer.

        “Why another (health awareness) week? Well, we've seen that these efforts in fact do work,” said Diane Blum, executive director of Cancer Care. “We were one of the original sponsors of Breast Cancer Awareness Month in 1985. Look how that has grown.”

        Several statistics reveal the disparity between the impact of lung cancer on the population and the level of public efforts to find a cure.

        • Lung cancer killed more people in 1999 (158,900) than deaths from breast, prostate and colorectal cancers combined, according to the American Cancer Society.

        • Nationwide, lung cancer will kill about 67,600 women this year compared to about 40,800 women dying from breast cancer. Since 1974, lung cancer deaths among women have grown 150 percent while deaths from breast, ovarian and colorectal cancers in women have gradually declined.

        • In Hamilton County, where lung cancer deaths have exceeded national averages for years, lung cancer killed 285 women in 1998, county health officials report. That's twice as high as the 142 women who died in 1998 of breast cancer.

        • On the research front, money for lung cancer lags well behind other well-known diseases. In 1999, federal agencies spent about $900 in research per person dying of lung cancer. However, U.S. spending on AIDS research amounted to $34,000 per death. Breast cancer attracted nearly $9,000 per death. Prostate cancer research got about $3,500 per death.

        • The research gap exists even though people are much less likely to survive five years with lung cancer than most other forms of cancer. Overall, 92 percent of men with prostate cancer and 85 percent of women with breast cancer live five years. However, 14 percent of lung cancer patients live five years.

        As grim as such trends appear, sponsors of lung cancer awareness week say there is cause for hope.

        For example, nearly 49 percent of people live five years if diagnosed with lung cancer when the tumor is small and hasn't spread. Early detection is increasingly possible as researchers study the use of spiral CT scanning, MRI and PET scanning as better ways to spot lung cancer.

        Several new chemotherapy drugs offer improved survival times and reduced side effects. More drugs are in clinical trials.

        Down the road, researchers hope the Human Genome Project will speed up a search for genetic links to lung cancer that could lead to even better treatments.

        In fact, the University of Cincinnati is leading a study involving eight medical centers looking for families with multiple cases of lung cancer. Now in the second year of a five-year study, the project has collected blood and tissue samples from 35 families with at least four cases of lung cancer among close relatives.

        “Our biggest challenge is getting the biological samples,” said Dr. Marshall Anderson, lead researcher on the project. “For every 10 families that have contacted us, we're lucky to get one family with enough biological material available.”

        While the medical world continues to improve lung cancer care, the big concern among advocates is that many lung cancer patients don't participate in clinical trials and never see a medical oncologist.

        “A lot of people get diagnosed by their family doctors and get told there's nothing more that can be done. A lot of these people could be living longer, better lives if they got state-of-the-art treatment,” Ms. Kennedy said.


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