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Growing trend of lung cancer in non-smokers


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http://www.whas11.com/medical/stories/W ... 12bf3.html

06:28 PM EST on Thursday, November 17, 2005

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Thursday at a conference for health care professionals, the American Lung Association chose a petite 18-year-old to be their main speaker.

She has reluctantly and very tragically become an expert on women and lung cancer.

“I'm not even sure everyone in this room can see me.”

Courtney Otto may be small, but her gift for speaking is huge. She was a nationally honored debater and public speaker in high school. She found her voice at a very young age. Now she has found her cause.

“I love to brag about my mom,” she says.

Last October, a little more than a year ago. Courtney's mom Bonnie was diagnosed with lung cancer. The tumor was large and the cancer had spread. Initially, Bonnie responded well to treatment, but despite radiation, chemotherapy and Bonnie's optimism and faith, she died May 10, just seven months later.

Courtney Otto

Bonnie didn't live to see her daughter's high school graduation or her 18th birthday. She wasn't there when she moved into her dorm at Dartmouth this fall. Courtney tells this audience all of that -- and something more.

“My mom was not a smoker. She abhorred the smell of cigarette smoke. For the diagnosis to come back as lung cancer caused by second hand smoke which is what all the doctors we saw said was very frustrating and I imagine for mom, too.”

Courtney channeled that frustration and anger into a crusade. This summer she worked with Smoke Free Louisville and told Metro Council members about her mother, urging them to pass a smoking ban.

“I've learned to deal with it in this way and going out and finding ways to talk about it and act out against the forces that caused the cancer,” she says.

Her crusade is also a gift given in her mother's memory.

“I feel like this is something she'd want me to do and something she'd want me to say,” Courtney says. “And I’m sure she's there helping me out to get the words out… Obviously, I wish this wasn’t necessary but it's the way thing turned out and given the circumstances, it's the best that I can think of doing.”

Bonnie grew up around smokers and worked in several offices where people smoked. Her family believes because she was a non-smoker her cough was misdiagnosed for several months.

It's estimated that up to 15 percent of lung cancer victims are non-smokers, and women are two to three times more likely than men to get the disease.

Doctors say secondhand smoke is a significant risk factor, especially for women.

“Secondhand smoke does increase the risk of certain types of cancer, most notably lung cancer in non-smokers,” says radiologist Dr. Michael Hahl. “It also is responsible for deaths in non smokers.”

Kentucky has the highest rate of lung cancer in both women and men, and it still has the highest numbers of smokers in the country.

According to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 27 percent of Kentuckians describe themselves as regular smokers.

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