In a perfect world, lung cancer would not exist. We would not see our parents, children, husbands and wives suffer and die from this disease. We would not need to designate every November as National Lung Cancer Awareness month.
But this is not a perfect world. People are diagnosed with lung cancer every day.
This year, it is estimated that 226,160 new cases of lung cancer will be diagnosed. That represents almost 14 percent of all cancer diagnoses.
Lung cancer causes more deaths in America - an estimated 160,340 in 2012 - than the next three most common cancers - colon, breast and prostate - combined.
There is a stigma attached to lung cancer. Too many people think that lung cancer victims were "asking for it" by being cigarette smokers. No one, whether or not they smoke, deserves lung cancer. The fact remains that tens of thousands of lung cancer diagnoses each year are from causes other than smoking. Radon causes 10 percent of lung cancer cases. Occupational exposures to carcinogens account for 9 to 15 percent and outdoor air pollution causes 1 to 2 percent.
In my role, I often hear heartbreaking stories of loss from lung cancer. Recently, I heard the story of Scott Garet, from Washington, Pa. Scott was a runner. He ran his first marathon in May 2011 and was happy to have finished in less than four hours. Not long after, he started feeling bad. An MRI revealed a tumor in his back. More tumors were discovered and the diagnosis came back as lung cancer. Scott had never smoked.
Scott fought hard, but in the end, the cancer won. He was only 26 when he died.
Scott's doctors were never certain why he got the disease. One thing that is certain is that too many Americans suffer and die from lung cancer each year.
I said earlier, lung cancer causes more deaths in America than the next three most common cancers combined. Yet funding for lung cancer research has always lagged behind funding for other types of cancer. It is a random, deadly killer. And it needs to be stopped.
So, this November, send a donation to the American Lung Association or visit the local office to learn how you can volunteer to help fight this disease. You can learn more about lung cancer online, at www.lung.org.
To learn more about treatment options, support for people who have been diagnosed with lung cancer, and support for caregivers, visit www.mylungcancersupport.org.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Deb Brown is President and CEO of the American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic, which includes West Virginia.