A call for action to promote lung health

By Shannon Traphagen

Data from a 2016 behavioral risk factor surveillance survey along with the 2017 report from the Center for Disease Control (CDC)’s National Program of Cancer Registries shows that in Erie County, more than 39,000 people were diagnosed with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) last year. Over 17,000 children were diagnosed with pediatric asthma, and more than 540 people were diagnosed with lung cancer.

The American Lung Association’s (ALA) LUNG FORCE State of Lung Cancer Report (the first time national and state lung cancer statistics were analyzed in one report) show how the toll of lung cancer varies across the country, and how New York can do more to protect its residents from lung cancer. “Analyzing lung cancer incidence, survival, stage at diagnosis, along with surgical treatment and access to lung cancer screening facilities, helps us to better understand the impact of lung cancer, prioritize the most effective policies, and focus on where the need is greatest,” says Jennifer Sullivan, a health promotions specialist for the American Lung Association.

The ALA provides tools to educate people and support a proactive lifestyle to lung health. Tools such as online support communities, the LUNG FORCE Expo and walk which provides education and referrals for screenings, and the Freedom from Smoking program which uses pharmacological techniques, psychological principles, and nicotine replacement therapy can help tobacco users gain control over their behavior and break their addiction. In addition, the Association’s Lung Help Line and Better Breathers Club offer support groups for patients and caregivers.

Judy Perry, a lung cancer survivor, says it was these tools from the Lung Association and proactive work of her care team that led her to get screened. “I had tried in the past to quit, to no avail. Through sheer determination—even when I stumbled, I finally quit smoking four years ago. My primary doctor mentioned a support group and free CT scan. I knew that if these tools were available to help people, I should take advantage. I’m glad I did!” Judy was diagnosed with level one small cell carcinoma and immediately underwent a left lumpectomy.

Judy’s driving force for quitting smoking and becoming more proactive about her lung health came with the realization that she needed to put her health on the priority list. She explains, “As a single mom and a social worker, I spent years taking care of everyone else. It’s important to balance care of self with care of others,” adding, “I did the scan because I knew I should. I’m retired, I can’t blame work, stress, or raising children on why I can’t do it. As a smoker, you always worry what if — but I’m asymptomatic now and doing well because we caught it early.”

Judy says she connected to Jennifer Sullivan through an event at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. “When I needed support, Jen was always there. That’s what they do!”

To learn about the American Lung Association’s Buffalo Fight for Air Climb on March 9th 2019, LUNG FORCE Expo on May 11, 2019 and Buffalo LUNG FORCE Walk on May 30, 2019, visit lung.org or call the Lung HelpLine at 1-800-LUNGUSA.