Lung cancer kills approximately 160,000 people in the United States each year—more people than breast, colon, and prostate cancers combined. It is responsible for over a quarter of all cancer-related deaths in the U.S. each year.
Lung cancer is often perceived as a man’s disease, but in fact it is also an extremely common and lethal cancer in women. In contrast to the mortality (death) rate in men, which began declining more than 20 years ago, women’s lung cancer mortality rates have been rising for decades, only just recently beginning to stabilize.1 Women often incorrectly perceive breast cancer as a bigger risk to their lives than lung cancer, even though lung cancer kills many more women. Without knowing their risks of lung cancer, women may not take the appropriate measures (e.g. smoking cessation, follow-up of symptoms) needed to diagnose the disease when the cancer is less advanced.
Lung cancer is a very common disease – approximately 219,000 people each year in the United States will be diagnosed with it. It is also a very lethal disease – roughly 85% of people who are diagnosed with lung cancer will die of it within five years of their initial diagnosis. This is in stark contrast to diseases such as breast and colon cancer, where one-quarter to one-third of all patients will die from their disease within five years. In addition, lung cancer patients tend to be diagnosed at a later stage (with more advanced disease) than do patients with many other types of cancer. For example, more than three-quarters of lung cancer patients are diagnosed after their disease has spread to other parts of their body, compared to one-half of breast cancer patients.