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Our girl Heather in the news again!!!


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http://www.courierpostonline.com/apps/p ... 1067/SJMAG

She is awesome! And so is her oncologist for recognizing her awesomeness. I met him at the walk in November--he came over to my LCSC table and took a pin--and I told him he had to take a LCSC flyer too. He stood there,so I thought maybe he was a family member of a newly diagnosed, so I started talking with him and he told me he was Heather's oncologist! Then he stood there with me for 15 minutes as I went on and on and on.


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In case anyone can't open the link, here it is! I would think the people in my area would be sick of hearing from me....but everytime there is something going on in the LC world, I seem to be their "go to" girl - I GUESS that's a good thing....

Scientists continue to fight unpredictable lung cancer

SJ Magazine


Health reporter Shawn Rhea's column appears Sundays.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

This past January, Dana Reeve, wife of late actor Christopher Reeve, sang at the jersey-retirement ceremony for New York Rangers player Mark Messier.

Five months into her battle against lung cancer, it would be one of the last times many of Reeve's friends and admirers would see her in public. The performance would be her swan song.

On Monday, Reeve, a life-long nonsmoker, died after a short but determined fight against lung cancer.

For many, her death highlights the unpredictable nature of cancer and the urgent need for improved methods of early detection.

Scientists have yet to develop an effective means of screening for lung cancer in its beginning stages, and since the disease often is asymptomatic, the vast majority of cases aren't caught until the advanced stage. As a result, lung cancer has become the deadliest form of cancer, accounting for 25 percent of all cancer deaths and killing more people annually than colon, breast and prostate cancers combined, according the American Cancer Society.

This year alone, 174,470 Americans will be diagnosed with the disease and roughly 162,460 will die. The vast majority will succumb to the disease quickly, with 60 percent of lung cancer patients dying within the first year of diagnosis and 75 percent within two years.

Most patients will develop lung cancer as a result of smoking, but, like Reeve, about 15 percent of patients will have never smoked.

Heather Saler, 36, is among that patient population. Three years ago, the Mount Laurel resident was shocked to learn she has lung cancer. "I'd never even picked up a cigarette, and like most people I thought, you don't get lung cancer if you don't smoke."

As lung cancer patients go, Saler is among the most fortunate patient population because she has survived the disease beyond the typical two-year life expectancy. Her cancer was found before it had an opportunity to spread, but the discovery was a fluke. During an X-ray for unexplained heart palpitations, doctors found a dark spot on her lung. A follow-up CAT scan and biopsy confirmed the spot was cancerous.

Saler underwent surgery to remove her tumors, followed by six weeks of simultaneous chemotherapy and radiation. The therapy sent the cancer into remission for nearly two years, but during a CAT scan last year, Saler's oncologist spotted nodules that may signal a return of her lung cancer. "I have about 20 to 40 that are too small to biopsy, so we have to wait and keep an eye on them. I'm not good at waiting," Saler said.

Unfortunately for nonsmoking lung cancer patients like Saler and Reeve, being in the dark about their health status is a common and nearly unavoidable situation. They have no clue of the disease because of its lack of symptoms.

Cooper University Hospital lung cancer specialist Dr. James Stevenson, who treated Saler, said current studies are looking at whether routine CAT scans could provide a reliable means of early lung cancer detection. If they prove useful, insurance companies should begin covering the costs for screenings.

But, the results of those studies are at least three years away, Stevenson said. In the interim, patients' only defenses are being vigilant about assessing their own risks and avoiding exposure to known causes of lung cancer.

The lack of definitive information about the causes of lung cancer in nonsmokers is a particular concern for women, because they appear to be more susceptible to the disease than their nonsmoking male counterparts.

"It's predominantly a women's phenomenon when you talk about lung cancer in nonsmokers; it's something like 10 to 1 (women to men)," Stevenson explained. "We don't know why, but there is some research that suggests estrogen levels may play a role -- that it interacts with environmental factors and carcinogens."

Those findings suggest women need to be particularly aware of individual risk factors such as exposure to second-hand smoke, radon and respiratory pollutants, as well as family history, Stevenson said. And, they should have thorough discussions with their doctors about those risks before choosing birth control methods or hormone replacement therapy, he added.

For Saler, who had no history of lung cancer in her family and is unable to pinpoint exposure to a possible cause, accepting the medical world's lack of progress in diagnosing and treating the disease has been challenging. As a result, she along with other lung cancer patients and their supporters have started an annual walk at Cooper River Park in Pennsauken to raise money for research. This past November, the group raised $44,000 to benefit the Lungevity Foundation, an organization funding lung cancer research.

"We started our own little fundraiser two years ago, because the federal money isn't there for research and the state tobacco fund is going to pave roads.

"I think because so many people equate lung cancer with smoking, nobody's looking for it."

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