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Lung cancer disproportionately impacts Black and Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) communities, historically underserved populations facing barriers to early detection. Members of the Black community are 21% less likely to survive five years with lung cancer compared to white Americans.4 In 2023, we launched initiatives to help eliminate health disparities for AANHPI and Black patients.

Our efforts included:

  • Partnering with LUNGevity, a lung cancer-focused nonprofit, and the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum, to develop and disseminate educational resources in several languages created for and by AANHPI communities;
  • Hosting two advisory boards convening AANHPI oncologists to explore approaches in the clinic for treating AANHPI patients with non-small cell lung cancer;
  • Launching BeLUNG Here, a digital advocacy program to equip AANHPI and Black individuals to become online advocates, empowering participants to share their stories and speak up for better care.

4American Cancer Society, The Facts on Our Fight: Cancer Disparities in the Black Community, accessed March 2024.

Nichelle Stigger, BeLUNG Advocate and Lung Cancer Survivo (photo)

It matters to me

Nichelle Stigger, BeLUNG Advocate and Lung Cancer Survivor

What’s your story?

“I had felt dizzy and faint and went to the ER. My blood tests looked normal, but an X-ray showed a pulmonary nodule. I insisted on a PET scan but the doctors were not concerned as I was young (aged 32) and suggested a wait-and-see approach. However, after six months, the nodule had grown, which meant it could be cancer.”

How did you feel about that?

“I was so angry. To go from hearing an enthusiastic, ‘It’s nothing!’ to a somber, ‘You need surgery immediately’ is disorienting.”

Then what?

“I underwent laparoscopic surgery to remove the mass in my lung and was subsequently diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer. Fortunately, the surgery removed the cancer, and I did not need chemotherapy. Once the cancer was out of my body, I was relieved. But like most cancer survivors will tell you, there’s always a feeling of underlying anxiety.”

What now?

“I want everyone to realize that it’s possible to get lung cancer even if you don’t fit the criteria. It doesn’t matter what age you are or if you’ve ever smoked or not. And early detection is everything. Listen to your instincts and keep looking until you find a healthcare team that takes your concerns seriously, listens to you and believes you.”