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Article from The Kansas City Star about LC

Amy P

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I don't agree with everything in this article but it did make some good points. However, I am e-mailing the reporter as there was a comment that this is the one cancer that is preventable even though the statement below states that 25k nonsmokers are diagnosed annually.

There’s no smoking gun

Despite stereotype, 25,000 nonsmokers are diagnosed with lung cancer yearly


The Kansas City Star

“We’re making baby steps in treatment; we’re not curing patients. But instead of living 1 year (after late stage diagnosis) they’re living 1½ to 2 years.”

Stephen Williamson

Lung cancer became national news this week.

Not because of any advancements in early diagnosis or treatment, nor news of significant declines in death rates, but because of two celebrities’ personal stories. ABC news anchor Peter Jennings died Sunday, just four months after he announced he was diagnosed with the disease.

“When you consider who it was who died and how soon after the diagnosis, it’s pretty shocking for people,” said Stephen Williamson, medical director of the Cancer Center at the University of Kansas Hospital. “People begin to realize how lethal the disease is.”

And many also are beginning to realize that lung cancer’s stigma as “the smoker’s disease” doesn’t always ring true. After Jennings’ death, Dana Reeve, widow of actor Christopher Reeve and a nonsmoker, announced that she also has lung cancer. Each year about 25,000 nonsmokers are diagnosed with the disease.

But as these news stories fade, advocates and physicians fear so will the spotlight on what appears to be the forgotten cancer. A cancer that not only isn’t widely talked about, whose victims’ stories aren’t heralded as inspirational, but one that seems to lag behind the others when it comes to advances in treatment, prevention success and early detection.

It’s the one cancer that’s preventable, physicians say, yet people still smoke.

“I think people hear the message, and there are a lot of messages out there,” said Renee Kelley, director of public relations with the American Cancer Society Heartland Division. “I think people are generally aware that if you smoke, chances are high you will get cancer in your lifetime, and it won’t be treatable.

“The problem is tobacco is so addictive. It’s not enough for people to quit smoking.”

Victims of other cancers speak out and lead educational campaigns, while many lung cancer patients remain private.

“When it comes to breast cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer, the enemy is the cancer,” said Jan Schwarz, senior regional programs director for the American Lung Association in Kansas City. “When you look at lung cancer, the cause is smoking, and then it’s an industry enemy, not a disease enemy.”

And with lung cancer, there’s the biggest obstacle of all when it comes to fighting the nation’s most deadly cancer. It’s the thing that stands in the way of saving more lives.

“There’s no proven tool for early detection,” Williamson said.

Because of that, in more than 60 percent of lung cancer cases, patients are diagnosed after the disease has spread outside the chest. By that point, the intensity of the symptoms — the persistent cough, blood in the mucus, chest pains and recurring pneumonia — help diagnose the disease.

Sometimes an early diagnosis can come accidentally, physicians say, when a person is scanned or X-rayed for another reason and the cancer is detected.

Early detection is found in only about 16 percent of lung cancer cases, statistics show.

There has been some improvement in the survival rate. The one-year relative survival rate for lung cancer increased from 37 percent in 1975 to 42 percent in 2000. Physicians attribute that to improvements in surgical techniques and combined therapies.

Fen Wang, a radiation oncologist at the University of Kansas Hospital, said advances in treatment allow physicians to apply more intense radiation targeted at a localized area.

Williamson added, “We’re making baby steps in treatment; we’re not curing patients. But instead of living 1 year (after late stage diagnosis) they’re living 1½ to 2 years.”


About 9 of 10 men who develop lung cancer are smokers. Even men who manage to kick the habit are at risk. ABC News

anchor Peter Jennings quit, but then resumed. He died of the disease Sunday at 67.


Adults who never light up still run a risk of lung cancer. Dana Reeve, 44, disclosed Tuesday that she is being treated for the disease. She and about 1 in 5 women who develop lung cancer never smoked.

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Gail - I borrowed the part about this website from one of your e-mails, I hope you don't mind.

Laura Bauer wrote a column about Lung Cancer today and while I am glad that LC is finally getting some attention the article contradicted itself.

The very first statement reads "Despite stereotype, 25,000 nonsmokers are diagnosed with lung cancer yearly" which is very true and my Mother is one of those individuals. Later in the article there is a sentence that reads "It’s the one cancer that’s preventable, physicians say, yet people still smoke" That statement contradicts the opening line.

Even if everyone quit smoking tomorrow, there would still be Lung Cancer because there ARE other causes than just smoking.

My Mother was diagnosed over 4 years ago and is currently beating all the statistics, but in all those years whenever I tell someone that she has Lung Cancer the first question I get asked is "Did she smoke?" My reply, does it matter? She is battling one of the most deadly cancers, the cancer that kills almost as many people yearly that are diagnosed and the cancer that is one of the most underfunded. The true irony of my Mother having Lung Cancer is that my Father was the smoker in our family and he is relatively healthy.

I appreciate the all of the long over due media attention that is currently being given to Lung Cancer but it is very unfortunate that it took the death of Mr. Jennings and the revelation from Mrs. Reeves to get the much needed attention. My hope is that The Kansas Ctiy Star will step up to the plate and help keep focus on increasing funding for research to find new treatment methods and hopefully a cure.

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, I would like to see some significant press dedicated to increasing the awareness and erasing the stigma of Lung Cancer.

If you would like to see first hand the toll Lung Cancer takes on patients, family members etc. please visit an online LUNG CANCER support group, the Lung Cancer Support Community which can be found at www.lchelp.org. We have 2,187 members worldwide, both patients and caregivers. We are young and old, male and female, smokers and former smokers. We have many on our site with lung cancer who have never smoked, and still face this dreaded disease on a daily basis.


Amy Pritchett

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