November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, and there’s still a lot of work to be done combating the disease. Doctor Todd Mahr chairs the board of the American Lung Association in Wisconsin. He said the statistics on the disease are daunting. “About 2,845 Wisconsin citizens die each year from lung cancer,” said Mahr. That’s more than breast, colorectal, liver, kidney and prostate cancer combined. In addition, nearly 4,000 new lung cancer cases are diagnosed each year in Wisconsin.
AUDIO: Dr. Todd Mahr (8:00)
And while Mahr said many cases can be attributed to cigarette smoking, other factors including secondhand smoke, radon exposure and industrial compounds also contribute to the deadly disease. The five-year survival rate for lung cancer is just fifteen percent. “The problem is, there’s no actual early detection for lung cancer.” Mahr said the disease carries an unfair stigma. “Everybody gets blamed that “you were a smoker, you have lung cancer, you deserve what you got.” And that’s not true. Yes, a lot of lung cancer people have been smokers. But not all of them.”
Still, Mahr said quitting smoking, not starting smoking, and limiting your exposure to second-hand smoke remain the best defenses against lung cancer. He said making the home smoke free can help prevent the disease in kids and parents. “Show them you’re not going to smoke. Make the home smoke free, and you’re basically also making it easier for you to quit.”