Lung Cancer: it’s not just for smokers anymore
The Story of Annabelle and RebeKAH
"I have lung cancer." These are not the words you expect to hear from your 32-year-old friend — a second-grade teacher training for her first triathlon.
But as I reviewed my patient list before starting rounds as a nurse at St. Luke's Hospital, I saw my friend's name and said to myself, "This can't be right." I rushed to the hospital room. Annabelle looked up from her hospital bed and tearfully said those four shocking words, "I have lung cancer." Without saying anything more, we hugged each other, torn apart from the news.
Annabelle soon learned her fight against lung cancer would not be the only challenge she endured as a patient. Despite her healthy habits, her personal choice not to smoke and the fact that up to 20 percent of women with lung cancer have never smoked, Annabelle is regularly asked about how often she chose to light up a cigarette. Like many others in her position, she feels blamed for her fatal diagnosis.
In addition to the negative emotional impact the stigma associated with lung cancer has on patients, it's also directly affecting medical research funding. Even though lung cancer is the No. 1 cancer killer in America, lung cancer research received less than 5 percent of the National Cancer Institute's budget in 2007.
This year, lung cancer will kill nearly twice as many women as breast cancer and over three times as many men as prostate cancer. It will kill an average of 439 people each day, and it’s winning the battle against my dear friend.