For the lung cancer community, November is a season of hope amid a world of challenges.
For women, these challenges can be unique. Maki Inada was a fit 36 year-old who had never smoked. When a cough lingered after a head cold, she was given a chest X-ray. That X-ray set off a chain of events including a CT scan, a biopsy and finally, the surprising diagnosis of stage IIIB non small-cell lung cancer.
Twenty percent of women diagnosed with lung cancer have never smoked. That’s twice the percentage as occurs in men, but researchers have yet to understand why. This year, lung cancer will take the lives of approximately 71,000 women; 80% more than will die of breast cancer, and more than will be taken by breast, uterine and colon cancers combined. Despite being the top cause of cancer deaths in this country, lung cancer receives far less research funding per death than the other leading cancers.
And yet, there is reason for hope. Lung cancer rates among men have declined in the past 30 years, and rates among women have recently begun to decline. There is a growing movement in this country that is working for greater public awareness, improved treatments and increased research funding.
For Maki Inada, this progress enabled doctors to treat her lung cancer with an innovative therapy that targeted a genetic mutation in her tumor. After undergoing surgery to remove the last remnants of her tumor, Maki was cancer free. Only two years after starting treatment she was able to get pregnant. Her beautiful daughter, Mariko, was born this summer.
Maki credits her friend and neighbor, a cancer survivor, with teaching her that she “didn’t have to take this lying down, and how to be defiant.” That spirit and sense of optimism are what fuel the lung cancer community during Lung Cancer Awareness Month.
This November, thousands of people from across the country will walk, run, share their stories and educate their communities for lung cancer awareness, education and research. The lung cancer community is united by a belief that all people affected by this disease—men and women who smoke now, smoked in the past or never smoked at all—deserve a chance to survive. By acting together, we are working to change the meaning of a lung cancer diagnosis for everyone affected by this disease.
Visit the National Lung Cancer Partnership’s website at www.NationalLungCancerPartnership.org for more information on lung cancer and to read more inspiring stories of survival.