Lung cancer impacts 1 in 14 Americans

November 4, 2011

It's a disease that impacts one in 14 Americans, and kills more than breast, prostate, colorectal, leukemia, and melanoma cancers combined.

Only 16% of people diagnosed with advanced stage lung cancer survive five years. My mom died from the disease two years after her diagnosis, and you may remember, Dana Reeve, the widow of Christopher Reeve, died of lung cancer when she was just 44-years-old.

Both Dana and my Mom were non-smokers, but here's the bottom line, smoker and non-smokers deserves the same care and a cure.

41-year old Joe Diana is one of the lucky ones. A freak accident on July 4th, 2008 likely saved his life.

"I was at a party, fooling around in the pool, cracked my rib against the side of the pool," Joe explained.

An x-ray showed very early stage lung cancer. Joe had surgery to remove his entire right lung, and still his prognosis for survival was just 50%.

"All the other cancers that get a lot more research have a lot better survival rates," said Joe.

Nancy Gatschet, president of the Pennsylvania Lung Care Partnership, says the smoker's stigma is so great patients fear being blamed for their disease.

"When a guy dies of a heart attack, the first question to his family isn't 'did he eat too many donuts?" says Nancy Gatschet.

Doctors say only 10% of smokers will ever get lung cancer.

Joe Diana was a pack a day smoker for 20 years, but after his diagnosis, he quit cold turkey and started doing what his doctors said he never would, running and competing in triathlons with just one lung. He does it to raise money and awareness and to show his children that anything is possible.

Joe and I will be running the Free to Breathe 5K this Sunday.

"Free to Breathe" Lung Cancer Walk in Philadelphia on Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Heather Saler 8th Annual Lung Cancer Walk in South Jersey on Saturday, November 5, 2011.

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