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In my previous life as a clinical researcher, my co-workers and I would joke it was fitting that the lung cancer awareness ribbon is colored an inconspicuous pearl white. Compared with the ubiquitous marketing around breast cancer or the growing attention on colon cancer, lung cancer advocacy can seem practically invisible.

Yet, more people around the world die of lung cancer than all other cancers – in part because many people who are eligible for lung cancer screening don’t actually get screened, including most Americans.

Dr. Nina Thomas, a pulmonologist at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, writes that difficulty accessing and paying for lung cancer screening plays a big role in low screening rates. Stigma and fear are additional deterrents. But lung cancer is neither a death sentence nor a moral failing.

“When diagnosed early, doctors treat lung cancer with an intention to cure,” Thomas writes. “Reassurance and education around next steps and paths to treatment at the time of screening help diffuse some of the distress surrounding lung cancer.”

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Vivian Lam

Associate Health and Biomedicine Editor

Lung cancer screening can save lives, but it isn’t accessible to everyone at risk of developing the disease. sudok1/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Lung cancer is the deadliest of all cancers, and screening could save many lives − if more people could access it

Nina Thomas, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

Stigma, fear and cost prevent many patients from getting screened for lung cancer. This can prove deadly for the most vulnerable.

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