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The looming threat of lung cancer. November 16, 2013

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. Our friend Ben takes note because my mother smoked 2 1/2 packs of unfiltered cigarettes a day from the time she was 17 until the day she died. And yet, she didn’t die from lung cancer, or even emphysema. Instead, it was my father who was diagnosed with lung cancer from all those years of breathing in the passive smoke.

My father was lucky. His lung cancer was caught very early, by accident, while he was being screened for heart disease. The surgeon was able to excise the tumor, and Father didn’t even need any followup treatment, like chemo or radiation. He remained healthy and active for the next 20 years, and the lung cancer never returned.

Most people aren’t that lucky. That’s because lung cancer doesn’t present especially distinctive symptoms, and isn’t painful until in its very late stages. (Only 15% of victims are diagnosed early.) Maybe you have a persistent cough, but who’d connect a cough to cancer?

As it turns out, lung cancer is the deadliest of all cancers, attacking 1 in 14 people and killing 160,340 people in the U.S. alone each year, almost twice as many as breast, prostate, and colon cancer combined. And don’t think you’re safe if you’re not a smoker: 17.9% of lung cancer victims have never smoked, and 59.1% had quit smoking, for a total of 80% not being active smokers. More worrisome still, new studies have shown a marked increase in lung cancer in young women who are nonsmokers, and nobody yet knows why.

The Lung Cancer Alliance suggests annual screenings if you feel that you might be at risk. Wouldn’t it be great if your cancer was caught early enough to give you an outcome like my father’s rather than condemning you to join the 160,340?