Lung Cancer Our Health

Our Lungs Matter: African Americans Deserve Visibility in Lung Cancer Clinical Trials

Lung cancer, a disease that develops when cells in the lungs mutate and grow out of control, is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S. More than 235,000 Americans will be diagnosed with a new case of lung cancer every year and over 131,000 will die as a result. It affects a person’s ability to breathe and can spread throughout other parts of the body and develop tumors.

What are the symptoms?

The first signs of lung cancer include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest pain, coughing up blood, difficulty swallowing, and having a recurring respiratory infection.

When lung cancer has progressed to other parts of the body, you might experience additional symptoms depending on the area of the body where the cancer has spread. This includes back pain, seizures, vision changes, headaches, and weakness in the arms or legs.

Who gets lung cancer?

Anyone can get lung cancer. And the number one risk factor for developing lung cancer is smoking, in fact 80% to 90% of all lung cancer deaths are linked to smoking cigarettes. Unfortunately for Black Americans, the likelihood of developing lung cancer and dying, as a result, is greater than any other race or ethnicity.

Does this mean Black Americans smoke more cigarettes?

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Not at all. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Black Americans typically smoke fewer cigarettes than white Americans and usually start smoking cigarettes later on in life. However, Black Americans are still more likely to die from smoking-related diseases than white Americans.

Why the disparity?

Disparities for Black American lung cancer patients are real. 1 in 16 Black men and 1 in 20 Black women will be diagnosed with lung cancer in their lifetime. Data from the 2021 “State of the Lung” report by the American Lung Association, show that compared to white Americans, Black Americans are:

  • 18% less likely to have a potentially life-saving early diagnosis,
  • 23% less likely to receive surgical treatment,
  • 9% more likely to not receive any treatment,
  • 21% less likely to survive lung cancer

Our Lungs Matter.

The disparities in Black American lung cancer outcomes are visible, but the presence of Black Americans in clinical trials is not. Representation is needed. The inclusion of more Black Americans in clinical trial studies could help address some of these disparities.

Clinical trials are research studies that test the safety and effectiveness of investigational medications before they’re made available to the public. When Black Americans are not represented in clinical trials while potential treatments are being tested, their unique experiences, background, genetic makeup, and needs would not be included.

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Medications aren’t one size fits all. Our race, age, ethnicity, gender, etc. can impact how our bodies react to medications and its effectiveness. Since Black Americans carry the burden of poor outcomes in lung cancer, their presence is needed in clinical trials.

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with lung cancer, you may be eligible to participate in a clinical trial.

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