It’s Time to Debunk Lung Cancer Myths

November is Lung Cancer Awareness month. But what does awareness really mean? The truth is, it depends on the disease.

For many types of cancer, awareness efforts center on prevention and research funding. Those are worthy goals for lung cancer, too. But this disease requires a bit more help on the awareness front. It requires a better overall public understanding.

As David Brunel, CEO of personalized medicine company Biodesix Inc., noted in a recent article, Lung Cancer Awareness Month is a time to “set the record straight.”

That means fixing common misconceptions about the disease that are “devastating not only to patients, but also to their families, doctors and healthcare teams,” Brunel said. Here are three myths that deserve to be busted.

Myth #1: Lung cancer patients don’t deserve empathy because they knew smoking was unhealthy.

Fact: Yes, the majority of people with lung cancer smoked. But many did not. Either way, the perception that lung cancer patients “did it to themselves” has caused research funding — as well as empathy — to fall short of where it should be. In reality, we can all reduce our risk of developing many forms of cancer by practicing various healthy life-long habits. Lung cancer patients should not feel judged or ashamed because of a lung cancer diagnosis, whether they were smokers or not. Patients deserve empathy and compassion. They don’t deserve to die.

Myth #2: Lung cancer isn’t that common.

Fact: Lung cancer is the No. 1 killer of both men and women in the U.S. It kills more people than breast cancer, colon cancer and pancreatic cancer combined. Yet lung cancer research doesn’t receive nearly as much financial support as other forms of cancer. This is a result of the aforementioned stigma associate with lung cancer, as well as an older and smaller pool of survivors. With only a five-year average survival rate and an average diagnosis age of 70, lung cancer lacks strong advocacy and funding for research.

Myth #3: Chemotherapy is the only treatment option for lung cancer patients.

Fact: Personalized medicine is already making an impact in the development of lung cancer therapies. Researchers are continuing to find clues within the body that indicate how an individual patient will respond to certain treatments. Based on the results of this research, physicians will be able to determine which form of treatment will be most effective for the patient and will recommend that treatment. Personalized medicine supports informed decision making for more accurate and thoughtful therapy decisions.

This month, we’re taking the Biodesix lung cancer awareness challenge, and we hope you will too. Share at least one fact about lung cancer with your communities — friends, families, and coworkers. Help debunk the myths that detract from patient care and empathy.