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Fri Nov 29, 2013, 12:21 PM

Lifting the smoke over the stigma of lung cancer: Chicago Tribune

Last edited Fri Nov 29, 2013, 01:15 PM - Edit history (1)

The leading cause of cancer deaths receives little buzz because of its link to tobacco

By Bonnie Miller Rubin, Chicago Tribune reporter
November 26, 2013


November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, but you'd never know it. Consumers aren't bombarded by products in blue, the color designated by some to raise the profile of the disease. Not a single building in the city's majestic skyline is illuminated in blue. No NFL players or coaches are wearing blue-ribboned apparel, despite donning pink just a month earlier for breast cancer.

"It just doesn't seem fair," said Meghan O'Brien, 31, a nonsmoker diagnosed with stage 4 of the disease last year. There is no stage 5.

The lack of buzz is especially perplexing because lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States, claiming more lives than breast, prostate, colon and pancreatic cancers combined. The five-year survival rate is just 16 percent a statistic that has barely budged since 1975, according to the American Cancer Society.

But lung cancer is seen as a tobacco-related illness that patients somehow bring upon themselves.

About 10 to 15 percent of the roughly 228,000 people diagnosed with the disease each year were never smokers, according to the LUNGevity Foundation, a Chicago-based support organization. .

Stigma negatively affects everything from emotional support to the anemic November awareness campaign. Even in obituaries, family members feel compelled to include the "nonsmoker" status, lest the deceased be unfairly judged.


My girlfriend, who I loved deeply, died last year of stage 4 lung cancer. She had quit smoking 25 years earlier. I was there in the doctor's office when they told her that she had stage 4 lung cancer, and that why she had trouble with her horse throat. It was one of the most devastating moments I had ever experienced. She died four and a half months later. This story spreads some light on a very dark subject for me.

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Reply Lifting the smoke over the stigma of lung cancer: Chicago Tribune (Original post)
Stuart G Nov 2013 OP
duffyduff Nov 2013 #1

Response to Stuart G (Original post)

Fri Nov 29, 2013, 01:56 PM

1. My niece's husband, who at 72 is much older than she is, has been battling lung cancer


for four-and-a-half years. He's lost a lot of weight and is much frailer than he used to be, but he's still hanging in there. He was at our Thanksgiving get-together yesterday and ate a lot of food. Apparently whatever medication he's taking must have ramped up his metabolism so that he doesn't put on any weight.

Over four years ago he had been diagnosed with lung cancer, and the doctors said he might not make it to 2010 or at most live two years.

He also had suffered a major heart attack several years ago, and he says the heart attack was much worse than the cancer.

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