MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The WVU Cancer Institute is joining organizations across the state to celebrate West Virginia’s inaugural Pink and Pearl Day today (Nov. 4).
Pink and Pearl Day, the keystone date of a campaign bearing the same name, aims to usher the momentum of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, celebrated annually in October, into November, which is Lung Cancer Awareness Month.
Just as the pink ribbons associated with Breast Cancer Awareness are more widely known and recognized than the white ribbons of Lung Cancer Awareness, breast cancer screenings significantly outnumber lung cancer screenings each year in the mountain state.
“We know that mammograms save lives,” Stephenie Kennedy-Rea, Ed.D., associate director for Cancer Prevention and Control at the WVU Cancer Institute, said. “With this campaign, we hope to build upon the momentum from breast cancer awareness month and encourage lung cancer screening in November. In West Virginia, less than 4 percent of those eligible for lung cancer screening are screened; for mammography, that number is more than 80 percent.
Hannah Hazard-Jenkins, M.D., director of the WVU Cancer Institute, Jean and Laurence DeLynn Chair of Oncology, and associate professor of surgery at the WVU School of Medicine, also hopes to see significant change in the statistics for lung cancer screening.
“While breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed among women in West Virginia, lung cancer is the number one cause of cancer deaths of women and men in our state,” she said. “Early detection is important in both cancers, and routine screening is the best tool we have to accomplish this.”
United by this same desire to positively impact outcomes in the state, 20 cancer care and public health professionals from around the state met virtually in early September to kick-off the planning process for the campaign.
While the WVU Cancer Institute, the West Virginia Mountains of Hope State Cancer Coalition, and WVU Medicine serve as the primary campaign hosts, the true impact comes from the partnerships and engagement seen throughout the state.
“With more than 150 members from across the state, the Mountains of Hope Cancer Coalition has partnered with the WVU Cancer Institute to reduce lung cancer incidence in our state for the last five years, and this campaign is another step in that journey,” Abby Starkey, Mountains of Hope Chair and program manager for WVU Cancer Institute Cancer Prevention and Control, said. “We are excited for the level of engagement we have seen across the state.”
The current United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) guidelines recommend women ages 50-74 to get a mammogram every two years, and women ages 40-49 should talk to their provider to make a shared decision about getting mammograms every two years.
For lung cancer screening, the USPSTF guidelines recommend adults ages 50-80 should get a low dose computed tomography (LDCT) screening if they:
- Currently smoke or quit within the past 15 years and
- Have at least a 20-pack year history (number of packs per day times the number of years smoked = pack-year history).
Those interested in breast and/or lung cancer screening should talk to their providers about risk factors and whether screening is appropriate. For more information about breast and lung cancer screening, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention site at CDC.gov/Cancer, and click on the specific type of cancer.
For more information about the Pink and Pearl campaign, visit WVUCancer.org/Pink-and-Pearl-Campaign.
To learn more about the WVU Cancer Institute, visit WVUMedicine.org/Cancer.