Q: Has the yearly focus on breast cancer helped in battling this disease?
A: Everything comes up pink in the annual outpouring of support for breast cancer victims and survivors. Years of pink gimmicks, including pink gloves on NFL players, raised awareness of breast cancer but may have left us with the mangled message that breast cancer is no longer life-threatening.
This is far from true. Every year, breast cancer strikes more American women than any other cancer. Statistics published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show rampant breast cancer. More American women are diagnosed with breast cancer than any other cancer. In 2012, 226,870 new cases were reported. The good news, nearly 8 out of 10 women diagnosed with breast cancer will survive.
The news is not so good for women diagnosed with other cancers. Lung cancer diagnoses account for less than half the incidence of breast cancer but it is far more deadly. Of the 109,690 American women diagnosed with lung cancer in 2012, barely 3 of 10 will survive their disease.
In short, lung cancer strikes far fewer women but it kills more of its victims: nearly half die. And they do so without the support of ribbons mounted on buildings, TV coverage, and a month-long saga of news coverage.
In fact, women battling lung cancer often encounter blame rather than empathy. Tell someone you have lung cancer and an almost universal first question is: "Did you smoke?" This accusatory question is a challenge. If you were once a smoker, it's all your fault. If you're still smoking, you're crazy. If you never smoked? Well then, bad luck?
As this year's tide of pink rolls out, remember the victims of other cancers who are still waiting for some measure of hope and consider adding another ribbon to the pink ones plastered everywhere. You have lots of choices. You could select a cancer that has benefited from recent research. Colon cancer, perhaps? Get a dark blue ribbon. Lymphoma? Lime green. Or you could choose to complement your pink ribbon with that of an embattled or orphan cancer. Lung: pearl. Pancreatic: purple. Mesothelioma: blue. Unfortunately, pink is not the only color.
Joann Temple Dennett, PhD, who wrote this article, died before it was published. She was a valuable contributor, and the Grillo Center appreciates her volunteering her time even as she struggled with cancer. Her last column is offered in her memory and in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
The Grillo Center offers free and confidential research to help improve health decisions. Contact the Grillo Center located at 4715 Arapahoe Ave, by phone 720-854-7293, or via GrilloCenter.org . No research or assistance should be interpreted as medical advice. We encourage informed consultation with your physician or medical practitioner.