The Lung Cancer Ribbon

What is the color of the lung cancer ribbon? Despite the fact that lung cancer is the leading cancer killer of both men and women in the United States and worldwide, people are often more familiar with the ribbon colors of cancers that cause fewer deaths. In addition, many people are unaware of the awareness events and organizations that cater specifically to people with lung cancer. Yet, even though the title "Susan G. Komen" may be on the tip of your tongue and you may not have heard of those dedicated to lung cancer, it does not mean a lack of growing organizations.

Importance

As noted, lung cancer kills more women than breast cancer (66,020 vs. 41,760 in 2019) and more men than prostate cancer (76,650 vs. 31,620 in 2019). And unlike some cancers that are stable or decreasing in incidence, the incidence of lung cancer in never smokers is increasing, especially in young women who have never smoked.

Lung Cancer Ribbon Color

There is some debate over the exact color of the lung cancer ribbon, but it's usually considered to be one of the following:

  • White
  • Clear
  • Pearl

Some lung cancer organizations, however, use different colors to represent their organizations; not surprising as the color "white" doesn't often stand out, such as if buildings are lit up to represent awareness.

While many people remain unfamiliar with the color of the lung cancer ribbon, the situation is better than in the past, and fortunately, lung cancer awareness is thankfully growing steadily.

The Color and the Stigma

It isn't lost on many of us that the color white—or translucent—is less visible than pink. Part of the reason is the stigma of lung cancer—that is, the feeling that people with lung cancer caused the disease themselves by smoking. It's important to point out that 20% of women with lung cancer in the United States (and 50% worldwide) have never smoked. Yet, even if someone has smoked they still deserve the same love, compassion, and excellent medical care.

At the current time, there are more non-smokers (never smokers and former smokers) diagnosed with lung cancer each year than current smokers. We need to spread the word that lung cancer is not a smoker's disease.

Lung Cancer Awareness Month

You may be familiar with breast cancer awareness month in October, but lung cancer also has its own awareness month. The month of November has been designated as lung cancer awareness month, and many activities are now taking place both in November and throughout the year.

Other Times for Lung Cancer Awareness

November is a great time dedicated to people with lung cancer, but there are many other awareness opportunities available year-round. Some specific days include:

  • Cancer Survivor Day (the first Sunday in June)
  • Women's Lung Health Week (the second week in May)
  • Radon Awareness Month (January)

Lung Cancer Organizations

If you or a loved one have had lung cancer, or if you wish to help raise awareness and support, several lung cancer organizations would love your help. With federal funding spending only 1 dollar for every 24 dollars spent on breast cancer research, these not-for-profit organizations need help more than ever. A few of these include:

Rather than competing, these organizations each have their own special "niches," and learning about the different organizations may help you determine which is the best fit for you. For example, LUNGevity places a strong emphasis on supporting people living with lung cancer today, for example, by hosting lung cancer summits through which survivors can learn more about their disease and meet others similarly coping with lung cancer. The GO2 foundation, in turn, has been investigating and providing support to young adults with lung cancer.

Special Organizations

In recent years, people with different molecular profiles of lung cancer have gathered together with physicians and scientists for form communities that advocate and educate. For example, the ROS1ders is a community of survivors (and scientists) with ROS1 positive lung cancers. Likewise, there are communities for people who have EGFR mutations, ALK rearrangements, and more.

The Lung Cancer Community

In addition to specific organizations, the lung cancer community as a whole is strong, and though the numbers may be lower that some cancer communities, the depth is real. There may be fewer "parties," but it's not uncommon for lung cancer survivors who have connected to travel cross-country to spend time supporting one another when needed.

You can find many people via sites such as Facebook, but there is a very strong presence on Twitter as well. You can find other survivors (and oncologists, researchers, etc.) by using the hashtag #LCSM, standing for lung cancer social media.

Raising Awareness for Lung Cancer

You don't need to wait until November to help raise awareness about lung cancer. Every day is an opportunity to educate the public about lung cancer. Unlike some cancers that have screening tests, CT screening for lung cancer has only recently been approved and is still limited to those who have smoked and are of a certain age. For the majority of people, we continue to rely on an awareness of symptoms if lung cancer is to be caught in the earliest most curable stages.

How to Become a Lung Cancer Advocate

If you're considering becoming a lung cancer advocate, you have what it takes. All that is needed is a desire, and whatever time you have. Some people advocate full-time, while others spend an hour a month or less. Unfortunately, due to the lower survival rates, there are fewer lung cancer advocates than say, breast cancer survivor advocates. Yet you don't need to be a survivor to advocate. We need those who aren't living with lung cancer day to day to fill in the gaps and raise awareness.

If you're living with lung cancer, taking care of yourself is most important. That said, much of the progress being made in lung cancer is due to changing the face of lung cancer. Once thought of a disease of smokers, the public is slowly learning that anyone can get lung cancer. People are realizing that young people, never smokers, in fact, anyone with lungs may get the disease.

Statistics alone are fairly meaningless. Not in their meaning, but in the support they generate. It's seeing the faces and hearing the stories of those living with the disease that is generating support not only in the public arena but among physicians and lung cancer researchers around the world.

An indirect benefit of being an advocate as a lung cancer patient is that people often learn how to better advocate for themselves through these activities. And practicing self-advocacy with lung cancer can not only help you feel more in control of your disease, but in some cases may improve outcomes as well.

Lung Cancer Awareness Products

Even though the world seems to turn pink during breast cancer awareness month, it's hard to find white ribbons and products that support lung cancer even during lung cancer awareness month. Here are a few places you can find products that support lung cancer research.

  • Free to Breathe offers the Lung Cancer Marketplace where you can purchase pins, earrings, and greeting cards. The beautiful greeting cards are made by a dear friend and lung cancer survivor, Bev Walgrave. Proceeds from purchases go to support programs that hope to double lung cancer survival by 2022.
  • The Dusty Joy Foundation offers a Wish necklace and notecards designed specifically for the foundation to inspire hope for those touched by lung cancer.

A Word From Verywell

Lung cancer carries not only the stigma of being a smoker's disease, but of being very deadly. It's important to point out that, though statistics are far from where we would like them to be, progress is being made and survival rates are increasing. In fact, a 2019 found that the median survival (the period of time at which 50% of people have died and 50% are alive) is no longer roughly a year for people with stage 4 lung cancer harboring a particular mutation, but 6.8 years!

Progress is being made, but will happen much more quickly if more people join in the efforts to raise awareness as well as funding for the research that is making a difference.

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Article Sources
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