Congress — when considering women’s health, don’t forget about lung cancer

Congress — when considering women’s health, don’t forget about lung cancer
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National Women’s Health Week  is an opportunity to shine a light on a women’s health imperative that will take the lives of more women this year than breast, ovarian, cervical and uterine cancers – combined, yet still exists on the fringes of the public consciousness. It is lung cancer and it is the number one cancer killer of women. 

This is old news to our community of survivors and advocates who have long been on the front lines raising their collective voices on Capitol Hill to build greater awareness and compassion for those impacted by this disease.

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Thankfully, some members of Congress have heard our call. Earlier this year, Senators Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioThe Hill's Morning Report — Washington readies for Mueller end game GOP eager to exploit Dem court-packing fight Rubio's pragmatic thinking on China MORE (R-Fla.) and Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinDem senator: 'Appropriate' for Barr, Mueller to testify publicly about Russia probe GOP lawmaker offers constitutional amendment capping Supreme Court seats at 9 Overnight Energy: Judge halts drilling on Wyoming public lands over climate change | Dems demand details on Interior's offshore drilling plans | Trump mocks wind power MORE (D-Calif.) joined Representatives Frank LoBiondoFrank Alo LoBiondoThe 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority LoBiondo launches consulting firm Live coverage: House elects new Speaker as Dems take charge MORE (R-N.J.), Rick NolanRichard (Rick) Michael NolanMinnesota New Members 2019 Republicans pick up seat in Minnesota’s ‘Iron range’ How America’s urban-rural divide is changing the Democratic Party MORE (D-Minn.), Barbara ComstockBarbara Jean ComstockGOP lawmaker introduces bill to stop revolving door Ex-lawmakers face new scrutiny over lobbying Trump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign MORE (R-VA) and Suzanne BonamiciSuzanne Marie BonamiciOvernight Energy: Ocasio-Cortez rolls out Green New Deal measure | Pelosi taps members for climate panel | AOC left out | Court reviews order for EPA to ban pesticide Ocasio-Cortez: ‘I truly do not’ believe Pelosi snubbed me on climate change panel Pelosi names Dems to new climate panel — but not AOC MORE (D-Ore.) in introducing the Women and Lung Cancer Research and Preventive Services Act in both the Senate (S. 2358) and the House (H.R. 4897).

 

This move solidified bipartisan, bicameral support among members of Congress who have long shown a commitment to policy initiatives to amplify the focus of lung cancer as a national priority. We are empowered by this support. We encourage other Senators and Representatives to join their colleagues and support this legislation.

Why are we taking this path? The truth is that lung cancer has a disparate impact on women. Nearly 200 women die each day, one every seven minutes. Sadly, lung cancer remains the “hidden” women’s cancer — little known and rarely discussed due to the pervasive and negative stigma that most people associate with smoking and think that those diagnosed “get what they deserve.” Yet, this ignores the fact that never smokers also get lung cancer. In fact, approximately two-thirds of people who never smoked diagnosed with lung cancer are women.

Stigma has also contributed to lung cancer research lagging far behind research into other types of cancer. Lung cancer receives $1,831 per death in research funding from the National Institutes of Health, the least funded of the major cancers affecting women. An estimated 70,500 women will die from it this year.

By comparison, breast and cervical cancers receive $13,406 and $19,904 per death respectively. The five-year survival rate for women with lung cancer remains less than 20 percent while the survival rate over the same time period for women diagnosed with breast cancer is 90 percent.

That is what makes this legislative work such a pivotal opportunity to reset the dialogue and reshape healthcare infrastructure to help people with lung cancer live longer. The legislation calls for a new federal plan of action to increase research to gain a better understanding about why lung cancer behaves differently in women and to inform life-saving gains in early detection and treatment. This will also consider methods to accelerate implementation of screening services as well as public awareness and education about the importance of early detection.

If we understand why lung cancer behaves differently in women, we will unlock answers that will advance transformative breakthroughs to improve quality of life and increase survival not just for women — but for the entire lung cancer community.

For the sake of our mothers, daughters, aunts and grandmothers, let’s work together to shine a brighter, more supportive light on this women’s health imperative — lung cancer — and enact this legislation.  

We are counting on you.

Laurie Fenton Ambrose is the president and CEO of Lung Cancer Alliance. Bonnie J. Addario is the founder and chair of the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation