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home : opinions : letters October 13, 2015

11/10/2012 9:59:00 PM
Letter: Lung cancer patients often unfairly blamed


November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, but you won't be able to donate at grocery stores, and you won't see celebrities doing fundraisers.

My husband has stage IV lung cancer. The first question that people ask upon learning this is, "Does he smoke?" The frightening truth is that 55 percent of newly diagnosed cases of lung cancer are non-smokers, with an increasing amount being diagnosed in never-smoking young women.

The mutation driving my husband's cancer is the one that is most common in non-smoking women, so we are blessed that he is one of the "lucky" people who can benefit from one of the newer targeted therapy drugs. But there's many lung cancer patients who have no "magic pill."

Even though lung cancer kills more people than breast, colon, liver, kidney, skin and prostate cancers combined, it is horribly under-funded because of the stigma.

Lung cancer, referred to as the "Invisible Disease," is generally asymptomatic until advanced, incurable stages. Most late stage patients will die within one year and only 16 percent will survive five years. My husband was given a 5 percent chance. He wouldn't be here today if not for a targeted therapy drug. We have no idea how long the drug will work. Hopefully, there will be something else to try when the cancer progresses.

Medically established early-detection screening for lung cancer has been a topic of studies, debates, and controversy for over 50 years. This is especially dangerous for non-smokers, as lung cancer usually isn't even on the radar for them when they present with symptoms. The American Cancer Society has yet to endorse definitive screening guidelines. With anti-smoking campaigns at the forefront of "support and awareness" efforts, scant help is offered to those devastated by this #1 killer.

Funding, awareness and support should never be contingent on where a cancer cell originates. No one deserves any cancer. Please educate yourselves on this killer disease. Support Lung Cancer Awareness Month in November, and please show support for all the courageous people that battle this disease.

Holly Garcia

Chino Valley

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Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, December 03, 2012
Article comment by: Laura Lajeunesse

Hi I am doing THE BIG RIDE a 7-week 3,300-mile ride from Seattle to Washington DC to raise funds and awareness for The Lung Association. I have had 2 family members die of lung cancer this past year and my dear father in law is now battling lung cancer.
I have pledged to raise $6,500.00 to improve lung health and prevent lung disease.
I need Your help. Please go to the bigride.org, find rider put in Laura Lajeunesse. Any donation you can give will greatly help me reach my goal. I will do all the pedal work!
Thank you so much Laura Lajeunesse

Posted: Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Article comment by: Any Addiction Is Harmful

Restaurants, gathering places and malls have discontinued smokers from spewing their disgusting habit for a reason. A non-smoker doesn't want to inhale or smell like a cigarette. Yes, inhaling this smoke is dangerous. Admit it and stop defending this disgusting habit.

Posted: Monday, November 12, 2012
Article comment by: Prescott Caregiver

Dear Holly Garcia,
Good letter. I have taken care of four different people with lung cancer and you are so right. To be dying is hard enough in and of itself. To be dying and being shamed and judged at the same time is just mean and unfair.

P.S. Don Elton Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

Posted: Monday, November 12, 2012
Article comment by: Furious Diabetic Genetically

Your comment about "obese people" who have Diabetes is totally off the grid, Mr Steele! Most people who do get the disease are not asking for it! It is a genetic disease that may be lurking in YOUR very GENES!!! I did not ask for this disease by eating too much lard, or sugar, my pancreas just doesn't produce as much insulin as needed! I realize that "sugar" is poison to my system, through no fault of my own! Your lumping my disease in with someone who picks up a cigarette and smokes several packs a day is ludicrous! There are MANY people out there who are THIN who have this disease! You need to back to the textbook before you relate the two!! The disease can be controlled by diet, exercise and medication if you are serious about "beating it" some people do have to control it with insulin injections, but nobody should be chastised because they have this insidious disease! Shame on YOU!!!

Posted: Monday, November 12, 2012
Article comment by: B W

Dr. Elton, please don't confuse the discussion with FACT, antismokers want no part of it.

Posted: Monday, November 12, 2012
Article comment by: tired of bs jones

@second hand smoke
Your comment shows a certain level of ignorance in itself. It is the carcinogens in cigarettes that cause cancer and escape into the atmosphere contributing to global warming. Marijauna does not contain these manmade chemicals so quit dissin the stoners

Posted: Monday, November 12, 2012
Article comment by: Tom Atkins

Amanda it, indeed, sounds nuts, but it is dead on! Read this snippet from The New England Journal Of Medicine:

"Health care costs for smokers at a given age are as much as 40 percent higher than those for nonsmokers, but in a population in which no one smoked the costs would be 7 percent higher among men and 4 percent higher among women than the costs in the current mixed population of smokers and nonsmokers. If all smokers quit, health care costs would be lower at first, but after 15 years they would become higher than at present. In the long term, complete smoking cessation would produce a net increase in health care costs, but it could still be seen as economically favorable under reasonable assumptions of discount rate and evaluation period.

If people stopped smoking, there would be a savings in health care costs, but only in the short term. Eventually, smoking cessation would lead to increased health care costs." *

A tip of the hat to Don!

* http://www.nejm.org/

Posted: Sunday, November 11, 2012
Article comment by: Amanda Regan

The theory about smokers lowering the cost of healthcare is ridiculous. My dad was in the hospital for a week's worth of testing and the bill was $84,000. I don't know about his various doctor visits, radiation, port for his chemotherapy, visiting nurses, etc., but each chemo session was $19,000. I'm sure that in the four months he lived between diagnosis and death, he cost his insurer well over $150,000, not even counting the few months before he was diagnosed when he was being treated (in vain) for COPD and having various tests. Had he lived a year, I'm sure it would have been $500,000+.

Posted: Sunday, November 11, 2012
Article comment by: Don Elton

I'm a pulmonary physician. I have diagnosed approximately 1000 cases of lung cancer in the last 13 years of private practice. Of those, 995 were either smokers or former smokers. This leaves 5 that had never smoked. While 2nd hand smoke is obnoxious there is little proven about its potential for harm. We know that children of smokers miss more time from school and get more asthma but we don't have evidence it has a role in lung cancer. Lung cancer in never smokers is frequently really a cancer from another organ that has metastasized to the lungs as opposed to an actual lung cancer.

Posted: Sunday, November 11, 2012
Article comment by: SECOND HAND SMOKE

is just as deadly as inhaling a cigarette, Not to mention what it does to the atmosphere. Yes, humans do destroy the quality of our air by their disgusting habits. More pot smokers is just what we need to send into the atmosphere. Such ignorance or our habits and what they can do to others lives.

Posted: Sunday, November 11, 2012
Article comment by: Holly Garcia

Actually, radon gas causes more lung cancer than second-hand smoke. This should prompt all of us who live near granite to get our homes tested. Granite Dells has a particularly high rate of radon gas.

Re my statistics: I used the lower end of cases reported. There are some sources that say 80% of lung cancers occur in non-smokers (never or ex-smokers).

My point in writing the letter was to warn all people that if you have lungs, then you can get lung cancer. I did not make up the title to my letter.

I don't understand why people would gamble with their health by smoking, for various reasons, but that conversation is obvious and was not the intent of my letter.

Posted: Sunday, November 11, 2012
Article comment by: Good Letter!

Sorry for your family situation! This was a wonderful heartfelt letter. Must of been a hard one to write. Best of luck to your family! I will keep you in our prayers. I dont know why people seem to always want a blame for all situations that can arise, maybe some false hope that devastating things will never happen to them. Well no one is immune, from cancers, car wrecks,babies born handicapped, people who take their own lives,all the ill's of our society. Instead of asking rude questions, why not ask how you can be of service. If a person does smoke and gets cancer, does that mean they deserve less compassion? Of coarse not!

Posted: Sunday, November 11, 2012
Article comment by: Tom Steele

Somehow I question your statistics. And those who smoke or did smoke need to pay a premium on insurance. Warnings have been on cigarettes and other tobacco products for 50 years. The same goes for obese people who need medical care for diabetes and other related illnesses. Self induced illnesses should not cost the general population higher premiums. Where is the fairness there?

Posted: Sunday, November 11, 2012
Article comment by: Smoking Kills Six Million Each Year

Holly, thank you for your letter relating the hard fought battle that your husband is waging against a devastating disease. The fact remains however, not like your husband, that most lung and throat cancers are directly caused by smoking or being near someone who smokes (second hand smoke). Cigarette smoking kills 6,000,000 (six million) people per year (world wide) and this number is growing! Tobacco use will kill over 1,000,000,000 (ONE BILLION) people in the 21st century if current smoking trends continue. Smokers die on average 15 years sooner than nonsmokers!
The US government has subsidized tobacco farmers to the tune of $1,300,000,000 (one point three billion dollars) from 1995-2011! Why smoking is supported by our government is beyond my comprehension! Except one thing, maybe this is the reason… the government supports tobacco farmers, wants you to smoke so the health care costs will be lower! I know it doesn’t sound quite right… but people who smoke become sick, and die 15 years early, and do not cost as much as folks who do not smoke, live longer and accumulate more health care costs over a greater number of years. Nah, that can’t be right? Can it?

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