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Americans Lack Basic Facts on Lung Cancer

Americans’ knowledge about lung cancer lags behind knowledge about other cancers, even though lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the U.S.

Oct. 27, 2010 -- Americans’ knowledge about lung cancer lags behind knowledge about other cancers, even though lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the U.S.

That’s according to a new survey by the National Lung Cancer Partnership.

In the survey of 1,000 adults, 80% of people did not know that lung cancer was the leading cause of cancer death. What's more, 83% of women polled did not know that lung cancer is more deadly then breast cancer; 75% of men did not realize that lung cancer takes more lives than prostate cancer.

In 2010, there will be 222,520 new cases of lung cancer diagnosed, and 157,300 people will die from lung cancer, according to estimates from the National Cancer Institute.

The majority of survey respondents were also not aware of some of the symptoms of lung cancer, including: a persistent cough; back, chest or shoulder pain; shortness of breath; and wheezing and/or coughing up blood.

Lack of Knowledge on Lung Cancer’s Causes

"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,” says Regina Vidaver, PhD, the executive director of the National Lung Cancer Partnership, in a news release.

There was also a lack of awareness of lung cancer causes. For example, 88% of individuals did not know that radon -- a colorless, odorless gas -- is the No. 2 cause of lung cancer. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 20,000 lung cancer deaths each year are related to radon exposure in the home.

Smoking cigarettes is the leading cause of lung cancer, but the message that lung cancer also strikes nonsmokers seems to be getting out, the survey showed. Fully 98% of people said they knew lung cancer also occurs in nonsmokers.

“This survey holds both good and bad news about the current state of lung cancer awareness in the United States,” says 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 is a nonprofit group that aims to raise awareness about lung cancer and raise money for lung cancer research.

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