Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Lung Cancer, The Silent Killer

When 44-year-old Dana Reeve sang Madison Square Garden she showed no sign she was battling lung cancer. Two months later she died. Lung Cancer acts quickly, one of the reasons it is called the silent killer.

Dana's death becomes a dramatic reminder that lung cancer strikes even non-smokers.

In an emotional broadcast in April 2005, longtime ABC News anchor Peter Jennings revealed that he was ill. Four months later Jennings died at home. His passing put a temporary spotlight on the country's most stigmatized and lethal cancer.

Even in Washington, where the number of smokers has dropped and cigarettes are banned from public places, lung cancer is the number-one cancer killer. Often overshadowed by pink ribbons and yellow wrist bands, the cancer has few advocates.

It is rare to hear about lung cancer in the news even though someone is diagnosed with lung cancer every two minutes. It is estimated that 60% of new lung cancer diagnoses will be in non-smokers - a combination of former smokers (many who quit 10, 20, even 30 years prior to the onset of lung cancer) and people who have never smoked. In 2008 it is projected lung cancer will kill three times as many men as prostate cancer and twice as many women as breast cancer.

Being the son of someone living with lung cancer one of the most common questions I get is “does your mother smoke?” In my case yes my mother did smoke. I also smoked until only two weeks ago. Many people feel that lung cancer is brought on by the patient themselves. Oddly when I met someone that has cervical cancer I don’t ask what kind of STD they had in the past. That is just something that does not happen.

In a world where as children we could buy candy cigarettes, you watched Tom and Jerry smoke on Saturday morning cartoons; I find it odd that lung cancer is still not talked about.

According to, tobacco use in films is back to levels not seen since the 1950's.

The Web site reports that 80 percent of movies rated PG-13 now have smoking and leading actors light up 60 percent of the time. Additional studies confirm it's one of the main reasons kids try their first cigarette.

Help us make a change. If you smoke put it out. Educate your children about the risks of smoking. Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer, but it is not the only cause. On March 8, 2009, I will be participating in Breath of Hope San Diego Lung Cancer Walk. Click here to sponsor our team. If you can give a dollar great, if you can give more even better. If you can’t give any money please be sure to tell your friends and family about this walk. We can no longer afford for lung cancer to be the silent killer.

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