By Laurie Fenton Ambrose, President and CEO, Lung Cancer Alliance
Make no mistake about it—lung cancer can be detected at an early stage, when it is more likely to be treatable and cured. Yes, you heard it right—treatable and cured. And not just for a handful of people, but for millions of people at risk. This is the message that the lung cancer community needs to hear right now—loud and clear—from all corners and at all levels of our medical community and public health leaders.
Since our founding in 1995, Lung Cancer Alliance made a pledge to our community that we would fight against stigma and make early detection and treatment research a core priority. Over the years, we have worked to increase research funding and secure lung cancer screening as a covered preventive service.
In 2013, the federal government recognized the value of screening. In 2015, it designated lung cancer screening as an essential health benefit for most private insurers and a covered benefit through Medicare.
While lung cancer screening with a low dose CT scan is currently the only proven method to detect lung cancer at a treatable curable stage—its benefit will only be realized if people are educated and know where to go for responsible screening. This means elevating the issue among primary care providers and individuals at the highest risk, and persistent advocacy for continued and enhanced screening benefits.
A preview of a study to be released at the upcoming annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) confirms that only an extremely small percentage of eligible individuals are being screened. The study does not delve into obstacles to screening, but we know that lung cancer stigma and lack of awareness of this relatively new early detection method play huge roles.
The doctors and healthcare professionals who recognize that screening is a proven benefit and are working hard to deploy best practice care deserve a huge thank you. That is why we will continue to support the efforts of our Screening Centers of Excellence network so that they can provide responsible, high-quality screening to those at risk.
In the near future, Lung Cancer Alliance will once again initiate an awareness campaign for lung cancer screening. We seek to remove the stigma and normalize screening as an annual exam for the at-risk population. In addition, we want to ignite collaboration among doctors and public health leaders to spur a true national plan of action.
We encourage those at risk to talk to their doctors or contact our HelpLine at 1-800-298-2436 or firstname.lastname@example.org to find out if screening makes sense for them. Our community needs to see the hope in this life-saving benefit.