Community | American Lung Association of California in San Bernardino

By: Ashley Solis


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Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of speaking with Terry Roberts, Executive Director at the American Lung Association of California, located in San Bernardino. The American Lung Association is committed to educating, advocating, and funding research about lung cancer, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), tobacco and air pollution. The American Lung Association was established in 1904 and at the time was known as the National Tuberculosis Association. This association had the intention to cure, you guessed it, tuberculosis (TB). Eventually, once a TB vaccination was created and the number of cases dropped drastically, the American Lung Association began focusing on air pollution and the effects on lungs, tobacco and second hand smoke, asthma, COPD and lung cancer. 

Around 2000, asthma rates began to skyrocket in the United States. Asthma, according to American Lung Association, is a lung disease that makes it difficult for the person to breathe. San Bernardino County’s rate is higher than the national rate of people living with asthma. Nationally, 10% of the population has a form of asthma, while San Bernardino County is at 13%. One of the main causes of asthma is poor air quality, which is a definite reason for the high rates of asthma in the Inland Empire in particular. A common misconception about asthma is that a person can outgrow it. The reality is, there is not a cure for asthma, and usually patients outgrow symptoms but not the diagnosis.

In the last year and a half, the American Lung Association has placed a major focus on researching lung cancer. According to the World Health Organization, lung cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world. There are 1.8 new cases in 2012 alone. Lung cancer causes more deaths per year than breast, colon and prostate cancer combined.

 

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Surprisingly, lung cancer rates have decreased in men and increased in women. Also, of those that have been diagnosed with lung cancer, 1/3 have never smoke a day in their life, 1/3 are current smokers, and the rest quit usually long before the diagnosis. According to Roberts, there are many myths about lung cancer. One of the most commonly heard myths is that once someone quits smoking, they think they are out of the woods. While they may have greatly reduced their risk of lung cancer, they still have a higher chance of being diagnosed than those who have never smoked. 

Did you know that August 1st is World Lung Cancer Day? If not, you’re not alone. World Lung Cancer Day is a global campaign to raise awareness about the disease. If you like breathing, then this day is important to you. This year’s theme is “Honor, Unite, Inspire” and is an educational initiative created by the members of the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS). The focus of this movement is to remember those who have lost their lives to lung cancer, those who have survived and the family members that have been affected by the formers. While doing this, the hope is to raise awareness about the prevalence and causes of lung cancer.

When dealing with lung cancer, early detection is vital. Unfortunately, non-smokers are not screened regularly. The American Lung Association knows that non-smokers account for 1/3 of patients and this is where education comes in. If you are interested in volunteering, there are numerous options available ranging from advocacy to raising funds for research. Volunteers are an imperative part of the organization. In the state of California, the American Lung Association has 65 employees and the rest of the work comes from dedicated volunteers!

November 8, 2015 is the annual Lung Force Walk for the Inland Empire. The Lung Force is “a force to be reckoned with.” This walk is to raise awareness and funds to address the rise of lung cancer in women, COPD, asthma and air pollution. There is also a need for those living with lung disease to share their story. Visit lungforce.org to become a part of the Lung Force Heroes.

 

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Remember, every five minutes someone in the United States is diagnosed with lung cancer. Every eight minutes, someone dies. The American Lung Association’s brilliant and former tagline, "When you can't breathe, nothing else matters."