Bringing 'Commitment and Urgency' to Lung Cancer Fight

November 15, 2007

After failing on an annual lung cancer 'report card,' Congress makes the disease a public health priority

ABSTRACT: After failing on an annual lung cancer 'report card,' Congress makes the disease a public health priority

 

On November 13, for the first time ever, the US House of Representatives unanimously declared lung cancer a public health priority and called for a reduction in mortality "by at least half by 2015."

Lung Cancer Alliance (LCA) president and CEO Laurie Fenton-Ambrose hailed the passage of House Resolution 335 (HRes 335) as "a highly significant breakthrough, most welcome during November, Lung Cancer Awareness Month." The US Senate unanimously passed a similar resolution in August of this year.

"By its action, the House has now joined the Senate in declaring lung cancer research and mortality reduction public health priorities. This is the first time that both houses of Congress have gone on record stating that the underfunding, stigma, and neglect of lung cancer must end," she said.

Ms. Fenton-Ambrose highly praised the primary House sponsors on HRes 335-Representatives Lois Capps (D-Calif), Ed Whitfield (R-Ky), and Donna Christensen (D-VI).

"LCA and all of our stakeholders are grateful to Representatives Capps, Whitfield, and Christensen and to the 78 other members of Congress who joined as sponsors for their leadership in recognizing the need to address lung cancer with a sense of commitment and urgency," commented Ms. Fenton-Ambrose.

"LCA also salutes its advocates around the country for their dedication to making the public and their elected Representatives aware of the devastating statistics on lung cancer."

As both the House and Senate resolutions note, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for men and women, taking more lives each year than breast, prostate, colon, kidney, melanoma, and liver cancers combined.

With large commitments over the years for research funding and screening, the 5-year survival rates for breast cancer have risen to 88%, for prostate cancer to 99%, and for colon cancer to 65%. The least funded of all the major cancers, lung cancer's 5-year survival rate has never gone above 15%, leaving few survivors to advocate for more funding for research and early detection.

Patients are often stigmatized and blamed for their disease whether they smoked or not, Ms. Fenton-Ambrose pointed out, even though over 50% of new cases are in former smokers and another 15% in people who never smoked. She also noted that lung cancer is "the only major cancer for which screening is not encouraged, even among those at high-risk for the disease."

"These resolutions passed by the House and Senate will help break through decades of neglect and blame and lead to fundamental policy changes in the way we address and fund lung cancer research and early detection," she stated.

Earlier in the month, for the third year in a row, the federal government received failing grades in LCA's 2007 Annual Report Card, issued to mark the start of Lung Cancer Awareness Month. The 2007 Report Card on Lung Cancer grades seven categories to evaluate progress each year on benchmarks that must be met in order to eradicate this disease.

The report is widely distributed among public policy leaders, medical professionals, and health-care associations working to improve outcomes for lung cancer. Only slight improvements have been observed since its first release in 2005.

They include increases in the number of lung cancer clinical trials, Congressional resolutions making lung cancer a national priority, federal legislation authorizing funding for chemoprevention and pilot programs to screen those at high risk for lung cancer, and several state legislative initiatives to fund lung cancer research.

However, youth continue to be addicted to cigarettes at alarming rates, overall levels of research funding remain stagnant, and screening for lung cancer among a high-risk population is still not endorsed despite new data showing benefits of early detection, the LCA noted when this year's report was released.

"Obviously," she continued, "these low grades show we still have a long way to go to reverse decades of stigma and neglect. LCA will continue its work to improve outcomes for all those affected by lung cancer."

To view the complete 2007 Report Card on Lung Cancer visit http://www.lungcanceralliance.org/. Lung Cancer Alliance is the only national nonprofit organization dedicated exclusively to patient support and advocacy for those living with or at risk for lung cancer.

Disclosures:

The authors have no significant financial interest or other relationship with the manufacturers of any products or providers of any service mentioned in this article.