I have just returned from attending the National Advocacy Conference: Call on Congress 2012, in Washington, DC, sponsored by the Lung Cancer Alliance. After a day of preparation and training, about 130 of us lung cancer survivors and loved ones of those who have lost the battle went to Capitol Hill and met with our lawmakers and/or their staff members to ask for their support for the Lung Cancer Mortality Reduction Act. I thought some of you might be interested in this bill and its background, so I’m posting this summary.
We all know that lung cancer is the most deadly of all cancers, killing about 160,000 Americans every year, which is more than breast, colon, and prostate cancers combined. And there has been no real change in the 15% 5-year survival rate for lung cancer since Nixon declared the War on Cancer in 1971. The Lung Cancer Mortality Reduction Act calls for the creation of a comprehensive plan to address this lung cancer epidemic by a 3-pronged approach: 1) prevention and cessation of smoking and other risk factors, 2) early detection by low-dose CT scanning, and 3) additional research.
The amazing thing that happened when we went to see our lawmakers is that most of them were very receptive to what we had to say, and some were openly supportive. They seemed to understand that lung cancer is not just a smoker’s disease. Twenty percent of those diagnosed have never smoked at all, sixty percent are former smokers, and only 20 percent are current smokers. And regardless, no one deserves to get lung cancer. We were also able to point out that an NCI study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in June 2011 showed a 20% reduction in lung cancer mortality with low-dose CT scanning (http://www.cancer.gov/newscenter/pressreleases/2011/NLSTprimaryNEJM/print). This is greater than the benefit from current screening methods for breast and colon cancers (mammograms and colonoscopies), and the radiation involved is less than in a 2-view mammogram. Then a study released earlier this month (April 2012) showed that the cost of CT screening for lung cancer is less than the cost for breast or colon cancer screenings per life saved (http://www.mifimaging.com/study-finds-lung-cancer-screens-are-cost-efficien t.html).
Right now, when data on the benefit, safety, and cost effectiveness of CT screening are coming together and when we have just spoken with about 150 lawmakers/staff in Washington, is an excellent time to contact your own U.S. senators and representatives to ask for their support for the Lung Cancer Mortality Reduction Act. The Senate bill is S. 752 and in the House it is H.R. 1394. You can see the text of the bill and see if your lawmakers have signed on as co-sponsors yet at thomas.gov. You can get information about how you can be further involved from the Lung Cancer Alliance (http://www.lungcanceralliance.org/get-involved/lung-cancer-advocacy/).
This would also be a good time to ask the American Cancer Society to support the bill and its comprehensive approach to lung cancer, especially given that the American Lung Association just announced its support on April 24, 2012, the same day we were advocating on Capitol Hill (http://www.lungcanceralliance.org/news/lung-cancer-alliance-news/2012-lca-n ews/more-organizations-join-lung-cancer-alliance-in-support-of-lung-cancer- early-detection-and-research.html). We all know that the only nod the ACS has given to lung cancer is its smoking cessation program. It’s time they, too, broadened their campaign to include early detection and research.
If we want to reduce cancer, we have to reduce lung cancer, which accounts for 30% of all cancer deaths. We have the opportunity to do just that at this unique time in history. Please spread the word.
Best wishes to all,