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Patients push for cancer research


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Patients push for cancer research

Gloucester County Times

Thursday, November 10, 2005

By Anne B. Jolis

WOODBURY -- Lung cancer kills more Americans per year than breast, colorectal and prostate cancer combined, but receives dramatically less research funding than any of these according to the LUNGevity Foundation.

Nancy Catando of Woodbury is one of the approximately 20 percent of lung cancer patients who has never smoked a cigarette in her life. By the time the 66-year-old woman was diagnosed with the disease, it had already spread too much to operate on.

"I have the impression, in my case, that a cure isn't possible," said Catando. "But a good life is possible -- if there's enough money to fund the research. There's this stigma that it's just a smoker's disease, but so often that's not the case."

Dr. James Stevenson is the co-director of the Comprehensive Lung Cancer Program at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey at Cooper University Hospital. Stevenson is also Catando's doctor.

"Lung cancer research is definitely underfunded," said Catando. "One reason is that it's seen as a disease that people give to themselves -- that people get what they asked for. That's an injustice. We're slowly starting to get past that stigma, but we need to keep going."

Heather Saler, 36, of Mount Laurel lives with lung cancer and has also never smoked. Saler was diagnosed in January 2003, and was pronounced in remission by June of that year. But according to Saler, a scan last December showed about 20 nodules beginning to form again on her lungs. The nodules are too small to biopsy, though, so Saler's status is still uncertain.

"That's one of the hardest things to deal with," said Saler. "You're afraid to make plans, you don't even know what to wish for."

Stevenson said that finding earlier and better means of diagnosing lung cancer would go a long way in improving the survival rate for the disease.

"Unlike other cancers, we don't have a great screening test to detect it early on," said Stevenson. "Many times when we find it, it's too advanced to operate on, and that's really the only cure. That's a big reason why the number of people diagnosed is almost equal to the number of people dying."

According to the LUNGevity Foundation, only 16 percent of lung cancer cases are diagnosed early on when the cancer is still localized to the lung. Lung cancer patients diagnosed at this early stage have a 49 percent survival rate.

Saler has made it her mission to see research for lung cancer treatment and diagnosis better funded. Last week was the second annual South Jersey Lung Cancer Walk, Run and Rally, which Saler spearheaded. Saler said she estimates that about $45,000 was raised at the event.

"But I don't get the feeling that the politicians or anyone's really making this a big priority," said Saler.

Finally, Saler was one of many who worked to make November Lung Cancer Awareness Month -- this is the first year that the month is recognized as such.

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Great article Heather. I hope that helps to bring some awareness to people who have no clue. Your dedication is so much appreciated and is making a difference.

Lets hope for more and more funding. We need some large businesses to help spread the word and get the ball rolling.

Bless you,


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