(BPT) - What is the deadliest type of cancer in America? If you answered colon, breast, pancreatic or prostate cancer, you are incorrect. In fact, the correct answer claims the lives of more than all four of these cancers combined: lung cancer.
More than 220,000 people are diagnosed with lung cancer annually, according to the National Cancer Institute, and yet there are many common misconceptions about this widespread disease.
The 2014 Any One Any Lung survey uncovered not only a significant lack of understanding about the impact of lung cancer, but also a critical absence of knowledge about the role of genetic changes in the development of the disease. The survey, sponsored by Novartis Oncology and conducted online by Harris Poll, found an astounding 84 percent of the general public feel they know little or nothing about lung cancer, which means education needs to be a priority.
'It's really important that people realize lung cancer can affect anyone,' says lung cancer survivor Richard Heimler. His diagnosis came as a shock not only because he was only 44 years old at the time, but also because he had never smoked.
'I hope in the years ahead we can change the perception of lung cancer and elevate it as a public health priority. As an 11-year survivor, I believe my story can give inspiration to my fellow patients and their families,' he says.
Lung cancer is more complex than most people think. Get the facts about three of the most common myths and misconceptions about lung cancer diagnosis and treatment.
Myth:Smoking is the cause of lung cancer
Fact:Smoking is a risk factor, but not the only one
This misconception is common - nearly 75 percent of Americans immediately think smoking is the cause when they hear someone has lung cancer. The truth: Nearly 15 percent of people with lung cancer have never smoked. Many factors contribute to a lung cancer diagnosis, including the environment, family history and genetic makeup.
Myth:Genetics has nothing to do with lung cancer
Fact:Genetics plays an important role in lung cancer development
Just 28 percent of Americans recognize changes in genetic makeup as a cause of lung cancer, according to the survey. But genetic mutations are closely linked to the most common form of lung cancer, known as non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Approximately 60 percent of patients with NSCLC have been found to be linked to certain mutations. The scientific community has identified 12 genetic targets that drive NSCLC including EGFR and ALK.
Myth: All lung cancer treatments are similar
Fact: Because all lung cancers are different, today's treatments vary greatly
New technologies that look at a patient's tumor cell on the molecular level help doctors develop individualized treatment plans, otherwise known as precision oncology. This approach provides patients with the best treatments for their type of lung cancer while avoiding treatments that won't be effective based on their genetic makeup. In fact, leading medical organizations recommend that lung cancer patients undergo molecular testing for these reasons.
'My advice for someone who is just being diagnosed with lung cancer is to take it one day at a time and be hopeful,' says Heimler. 'Everyone's medical journey is different, so it's important to be educated and informed about developments in diagnostic testing and personalized medicine. There are also patient advocacy organizations that offer tremendous resources and support for lung cancer patients and caregivers.'
More people need to know the facts about lung cancer. In order for patients with lung cancer to get the best care, treatment and support, increased public awareness and education are needed. Learn more at www.anyoneanylung.com or visit www.novartisoncology.com/us.