Tuesday, March 07, 2006
Reeve's resilience left me hopeful
I know the numbers are abysmal when it comes to lung cancer, but somehow I thought in the back of my mind that Dana Reeve still would beat it.

Maybe it was her amazing resilience after her husband was paralyzed or even the optimistic outlook in November when she announced her tumors were shrinking. Maybe it was the fact that she and Christopher had a son, Will, and it would be brutally unfair for him to lose two parents in two years. I should have known better.

Lung cancer kills 60 percent of its victims in the first year alone, and within five years, only 15 percent are living. A large part of the problem has to do with the fact that we aren't very good at screening for this type of cancer. By the time someone comes to their doctor because they are not feeling well, the cancer is often advanced. We have mammograms for breast cancer, colonoscopies for colon cancer and PSA tests for prostate cancer, but when it comes to lung cancer (the biggest killer of all), we aren't even sure who to screen.

Should it be every person who has smoked over 10 years? Should it be anyone who has a cough lasting more than a month? How about someone who develops pneumonia and bronchitis repeatedly? The answer is we don't know, and the medical community isn't ready to recommend a CT scan of the lungs for every American, while a chest x-ray alone probably isn't sensitive enough to detect early lung cancer.

A lot will be made of the fact that Dana Reeve wasn't a smoker. Fair enough, since that fact puts her in the minority of lung cancer victims. Only 20 percent of women who develop lung cancer weren't smokers and just 10 percent of men. It may have been bad genes, exposure to secondhand smoke or radon or something else entirely. Truth is, we may never know for sure.

Still, there is a larger issue: How do we collectively make a dent in saving and prolonging the lives of people with lung cancer? Should we place a bigger focus on it in the media? Should more funding go toward treatment as it kills more people than breast, prostate and colon cancer combined? And perhaps most importantly, how do we develop a better screening test?

We'll take your cancer-related questions live on air tonight between 10 p.m. and midnight ET, so please call us then at 877-648-3639. In the meantime, feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below. I'm anxious to hear what's on your mind.
Posted By Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN Medical Correspondent: 2:58 PM ET
  93 Comments
I was very sad to learn of this news this morning. I do have had my share of family tradegies too but all I could think of this morning after hearing the news was how extremly sad I am for their young son. Unfortunately, it's a part of life this is reality but it's extremly unfair for this young man to lose both of his parents in such a short time. I feel in my heart that his parents are both looking down at him from Heaven and giving him the strength to go on. My heart & prayers are with him and his other siblings.
Posted By Anonymous Frances J, San Francisco, CA : 3:27 PM ET
I was also shocked to hear about Dana Reeve today. Sanjay, your blog expresses many of the emotions that I felt when I got the CNN email this morning. The first thing I thought of was her son. How very sad for him.

Why is it that the tests for lung cancer are not as effective as the other cancer testing? I can't wait to see the show tonight and find out more.
Posted By Anonymous Linda V., Butler, PA : 3:28 PM ET
Having lost my father to lung cancer less than 6 months ago, I can say it was the most difficult and emotional roller coaster I've ever experienced. There were good days, bad days, days where you almost forgot he was sick, and dared to feel optimistic. However, even his doctors were amazed at how long he held on, considering how advanced his case was, and how much strength his poor tired body found for nearly a year after diagnosis to keep fighting. His suffering during his last few days, attempts by his physicians to make him more comfortable, as well as having to try and accept that the end was near, were so devastating to our family. My tears were so much for how little he complained in the face of it all, radiation, chemotherapy, endless tests and poking, he always held out hope.
We should all realize that our time here is not guaranteed, we never know how long we will have, and shouldn't take it for granted that we will always have our health.
Cancer does not discriminate. My heart goes out to all cancer patients and their families, and wish them all so much hope for their futures.
Posted By Anonymous Tina Peach. from Toronto, Ontario. Canada : 3:32 PM ET
Dana's death is heartwretchingly sad. My heart aches for her son Will. May God guide him through this tragic time.

I absolutely agree... we can test for all kinds of cancers, there has to be a way to test for lung cancer.
Posted By Anonymous Jill Fort Wayne, IN : 3:33 PM ET
I too, feel it very cruel that the Reeve's son has lost both his parents in such a short period of time - and at such a young age. The only consolation is that he must have many loving family and friends to support him through it all.

I am also very suprised at how quickly things happened. What were her initital symptoms? I know she wasn't a smoker, but was she a victim of second hand smoke from childhood, like many of us?
Posted By Anonymous Deborah, England, UK : 3:41 PM ET
Why not get a CT scan every year, it's preventative health care just like a mammogram? The statistics are staggering on lung cancer. I think it's the foods we eat and the other products in our environmet we are exposed to that is causing some of these cancers. I am stunned that Dana died. I thought she could beat it, she is like a Superwoman. My prayers go out to her son and family.
Posted By Anonymous Naomi Cape Coral, FL : 3:41 PM ET
I hear of Dana Reeve death on my way to work. I begin to cry. I did not know her or Chris personally but they touched my life in a profound way. The love between them was something just so wonderful that words can not discribe. Their soles so connected that they are now together once again.
Posted By Anonymous Rachel Saiz-Albuquerque, NM : 3:41 PM ET
Dr Gupta I never smoked, but my partner does. We have been together for 18 years now. He smokes 3 to 4 packs a day and he works from home. My family for years now have told me that I am in higher risk of being damage from his smoking. Is this true? And is there anything that I can do to prevent any damage to me. He wont stop smoking and I would never leave him. So what can I do? Thank You.
Posted By Anonymous anthony guiliano allentown pa : 3:48 PM ET
I thought she would make it. After all she has been through, Dana deserved to make it and to watch her son grow up. I hope that I would have the strength and dignity she has shown while standing by her husband, and then becoming ill herself. It isn't like having his parents here, but Will is receiving a wonderful legacy of two loving, strong parents, something not to be taken for granted, and someting many children will never know.
Posted By Anonymous Ingrid Rose, Marana, AZ : 3:49 PM ET
I am so saddened today as we hear about Dana's death. Your comments are right on: where do we put our focus now? We are not getting ahead of this cancer and now today, we have lost a wonderful member of our community. We must work harder, expand our focus. And then pray for that young boy who has now lost both parents.
Posted By Anonymous Audree, PH, IL : 4:00 PM ET
Sanjay, We also were in total shock today in regards to the news about Dana. She was the epitome of what we could all only hope that we'd be to our mate; loving, caring, positive. I guess I thought for all that she'd done surely it couldn't have worked out that now she'd have to leave her son....we need all of what you said; more coverage, more funding...
Posted By Anonymous Lisa V, Des Plaines, IL : 4:02 PM ET
This hits home. My boyfriend Graham, had backpain after he helped friends paint their house. He thought it was just a pulled muscle. The pain did not go away. He was not fond of going to doctors but this brought him to the clinic. The clinic doctors perscribed pain killers and set up tests. It took months before they knew it was lung cancer. He was 41 at diagnosis he went through all the radiation and chemo treatments. The tumour reduced in size. They even tried the eressa drug when they could no longer safely give him more chemo. Eressa (hope I am spelling that right) did not work on his cancer. He was 42 when he passed away. Yes, he was a smoker. What I am not telling you in detail is the pain he went through and the pain of losing him.
I encourage every smoker, young and old, woman and man, to try to quit smoking please!
Posted By Anonymous Barbara Wheeland, Montreal, QC : 4:04 PM ET
My neice died from lung cancer in 1999. She was only 28 years old. She had never smoked and was always active. She thought she had the flu when she became ill. Finally, some of her collegues at the school where she taught Special Ed students insisted she go to the doctor and they found her cancer so advanced. She took the normal chemo and radiation and lost her beautiful red hair. The doctor gave her just a few months. She lived nine months and passed away on Memorial Day weekend. The treatments helped but could not seem to help her pancreas and liver. It was so difficult to see her suffer and then leave us. I just hope that more can be done to detect any early cancer and that the medical profession will insist on prevention. With our insurance rates so high, if their is a push for prevention, there would not be as many people who become ill.
Posted By Anonymous Theresa Whiteman/Hardin, MT : 4:04 PM ET
I couldn't believe it when I heard she had died. I just saw her performing a song at MSG during the ceremony for the retirement of Mark Messier's number not quite two months ago. (You may remember both she and Christopher had a strong relationship with the NY Rangers for several years.) I thought she looked pretty good - I could tell she was wearing a wig of course, but she had color, and meat on her bones. Nothing like a person in the final stages of cancer usually looks. How tragic her and Christopher's lives ended up, after what was once such a blissful romance. Whoever could have imagined it would turn out like this? I feel the worst for their son - old enough to have many memories of his parents, yet young enough to still need them very much. I hope he has a good network of family and friends around him. He will be in my thoughts.

I come from a family who seems quite cancer-prone, and one of my cousins did at one time developed lung cancer. She, fortunately, is one of those rare survivors beyond five years and she's doing great and recently became a new grandmother. It really would be interesting if the genetic mysteries of lung cancer, as well as others like pancreatic that are hard to catch early, could finally be unravelled, and we could see what the commonalities and differences are and then start developing effective screenings and treatments. It's actually a field I'm working to get into right now - I've mentioned being in grad school once or twice before on this blog...that's what I'm doing it for! I've never had any crazy fantasies of making that earth-shattering discovery or anything. I'm satisfied enough just to be contributing my time because every little bit of knowledge gained is a step forward, and therefore it is time well-spent.
Posted By Anonymous AM, Piscataway, NJ : 4:05 PM ET
I hope there is in the future an affordable early detection system. I smoked for appx 10 years, and quit over a year ago now. Yet for over the past year and a half have had short, sharp sometimes debilitating pain on my left side in my chest. This concerns me greatly, yet because I am under 30 years old my doctor says its nothing. I questioned another doctor about it and his comment was it was perhaps scar tissue on my lungs but would go away..that was a year ago on that comment and it doesnt happen any less frequently. Now I worry if I have lung cancer but there is no way I can begin to afford a CT scan and so I just get to sit here and wait.
Posted By Anonymous Jessica Warfield, Mt. Carroll, Illinois : 4:05 PM ET
you hit the nail on the head here. the problem is who to scan. insurance companies are not about to allow doctors to call for scannings of all Americans.
It would seem to me since an average of 85 percent of all people who get lung cancer have been smokers, part of annual physicals for all smokers and ex smokers who smoked more than 5 years should include a CT Scan.
I dont know why anybody besides insurance companies would oppose that. If they thought it through, it would probably be cheaper for them as weel to catch a cancer early and treat it than to pay to sustain a dying person for a year on oxygen.
Posted By Anonymous David Dominick Atlanta, GA : 4:11 PM ET
My heart hurts for a son with two wonderful parents but only memories of them to live with. I think, based on everything that the Reeve family has done for all of us, we should do everything we can to make sure that our world is the best it can be for their son. I am thinking of him and my heart pours out to him.
Posted By Anonymous Melissa, South Bend, IN : 4:11 PM ET
Dana Reeves; What an inspiration to all people facing tragedy and death. Who knows why some people survive and others don't? You can drive yourself crazy on that quest. I have been a hospic volunteer for several years - Helping those dealing with the reality of death and the family members left behind. The truth is, that there is no rhyme or reason to death. No matter how hard we try (the medical community) we are unable to stop it. The best we can do is have quality of life and hold the hand of those we love as they pass over. We can only hope that the son Dana & Chris Reeves left behind can hold fast to his parents love for a lifetime.
Posted By Anonymous Cheryl Raleigh, NC : 4:18 PM ET
The news of Mrs. Reeve's passing hit me like a blow to the stomach! I too thought if anyone could beat this she would and should. To think of all that family has been through all ready and now this. So unfair to say the least. God bless them all especially Will.
Posted By Anonymous Kerri, Orange, Texas : 4:28 PM ET
Hi Dr. Gupta,

How very, very sad. My father died from an adenocarcinoma of the lung back in 1992, he was 53 years old. He died four weeks after his diagnosis. At the time there was no chemotherapy protocal for the type of cancer he had. Has that at least changed? What happened to the "war on cancer?" We, as a country, spend so much money on other wars, I don't understand why more isn't being spent on finding cures or at least treatments for the most prevelant types of cancer. Pancreatic cancer is very similar with regard to how deadly it is and how little we can do to detect it or cure it.

I will keep Will Reeves in my thoughts. I will hug my two children even tighter and as always, I will think of my father and what might have been. He never met his grandchildren.
Posted By Anonymous Jennifer, La Jolla California : 4:28 PM ET
It is not easy at any age to lose two parents. I lost my mom in 1996 and then my dad past away in 2003. i am now 34 and it is tough, but life gives you curve balls and you have to go on. I am praying for Will and his family and he will be ok.
Posted By Anonymous Tim, Dallas Tx : 4:28 PM ET
i really do not understand about cancer, my father is 91 and he smke since he was 15 years old, and he still smoking , other people as soon as they quit smoking get the cancer.
in the genes or what happening...
My father after all is active drives and he also practice in his clinic he is O.D. ,he has now just the begining of emficema but other wise he is fine.
Posted By Anonymous Pedro,tegucigalpa,Honduras : 4:29 PM ET
I pray one day that cancer will no longer be around and that a cure will be found. So many wonderful lives and dreams taken, young and old. It is so terribly sad to see someone you love have cancer and know you cant do anything about it..but be there for them.
Posted By Anonymous Sherrry, Cleveland Ohio : 4:29 PM ET
My father died short of his 68th birthday in July, 2004, also of non-smoker lung cancer, 10 weeks after being diagnosed. For 45 years he worked a strenous physical labor job, worked out 3 hours every day, didn't drink, and had no other health issues except for a yearly cold or two. We are still heartbroken and confused why this horrible disease took this wonderful husband, Daddy and Grandpa from us when he did everything right. My heart goes out to Dana Reeves' family as my family has lived through the wondering of how...and why...of this insidious disease.
Posted By Anonymous Tina Ohman, Palm Bay, Florida : 4:30 PM ET
I was saddened to hear this news. But the answer is not to start shouting "Why doesn't someone DO something?" Cancer researchers and the medical community HAVE and ARE doing something; lots of things. The progress in detecting and treating all sorts of cancers over the past 50 years has been amazing. We don't need to find someone to blame for the deaths of Dana Reeves and all the other victims of lung cancer. I'm sure researchers are working on better means of detection. What we need to do is continue to support all the organizations that are fighting cancer.
Posted By Anonymous Frank Luxem, Tustin, CA : 4:30 PM ET
...I feel sick for Will!!!..makes me mad when i hear everyone saying she wasn't a smoker which she wasn't...BUT...she said on Oprah after she was diagnosed that she sung in "smoking clubs" and was surrounded by second hand smoke!!!...lets let people know her exact quote from that show ...Dana knew what this was likely from and she surely would want it out there the dangers of second hand smoke...someone at CNN needs to get the exact transcript and let the world know that she knew!!!!!!...God Bless Will!!!
Posted By Anonymous Jennifer Raponi, Thornhill, Ontario, Canada : 4:31 PM ET
You make a good point, Dr. Gupta, about the need for a screening test. How about a blood test similar to the ones for breast and ovarian cancer, which are not very accurate, but better than nothing. I know, easier said than done.
Posted By Anonymous Elizabeth Holmes, Corcoran, California : 4:31 PM ET
For a nation to be so far advanced in other area's of medicine, we have a long way to go with the diagnosis of lung cancer. Dana Reeve is an inspiration to all of us and I hope her message and Christopher's regarding stem cell research will be heard by those in Washington who are purportedly there to represent us, unfortunately it seems that corporate dollars are what motivates them, not lung cancer victims.
Posted By Anonymous Nancy Potts, Nashville Tn : 4:31 PM ET
My grandmother died of lung cancer at the age of 82. She never smoked, but she was an avid horse rider and used to hang around stables a lot. Is it possible to get lung cancer from the small dust particles often present around horse barns and might this explain how Dana got lung cancer?
Posted By Anonymous John Youngman, New Canaan CT : 4:31 PM ET
Is there ever an explanation for a loss of a life to Cancer. This horrible disease that we cant seem to get our arms around. Why is it that each person who dies becomes just another statistic when in fact there is no real progress being made on the many fronts cancer affects. Yes, there have been a few advances in breast cancer and some for prostate cancer, but overall Cancer is such a large and growing disease in America, I find it a sad commmentary that our own government invests so very much in other world wide events, when so much good can come of investing it in the medical field and approval of research in areas like stem cell research instead of taking a religious stance, take a human stance.

In the end, the Reeves' family taught us all a lesson in life. Live it to the fullest, make something important of yourself and make a difference for others.

God bless you both for a job well done. Peace be with your families.
Posted By Anonymous Jill M, Southern CA : 4:31 PM ET
This is just sad, sad news.

But it is also frighening news.

I really wonder what is in the air we are breathing lately, both indoors and outdoors. The causes of cancer must go way beyond smoking, 'bad genes, and diet. It's high time we examined what cancer patients (especially lung cancer patients) were exposed to over a lifetime - and look for some common threads.

I have a feeling that cancer was not a problem in earlier societies or an the nonindustrialized world.

I'd love to see some studies comparing cancer rates in our most polluted cities with those in the world's least polluted regions.
Posted By Anonymous Diana, San Diego, CA : 4:32 PM ET
My heart broke early this morning hearing the news regarding Dana Reeve.
What a tragic loss, not only for her son and family, but for humanity. She was a bright light in such a dismal time.

If this doesn't discourage people to quit smoking, what will?
Posted By Anonymous Sue Potocko , Silver Spring, MD : 4:33 PM ET
I think it is genetic. My nephew contracted soft tissue sarcoma in his lungs, he was 2 when diagnosed and 4 when he passed away. His father had passed away one year earlier of black mole melanoma at the age of 28. His paternal grandmother had died of breast cancer. One of his paternal aunts had overcome uterine cancer. His paternal great grandparents and aunts and uncles have either died or dealt with cancer throughout the family. Perhaps the rest of the family could have smoked or been subjected to years of second hand smoke, but I know my nephew was not a smoker at 2 years of age. He was probably exposed to second hand smoke, but at 2 years of age I don't think anyone would call that prolonged.
Posted By Anonymous RJ Newman, Mt. Pleasant, TX : 4:33 PM ET
I too am very saddened by the death of Dana Reeve. I lost my mother in 1997 to lung cancer so i know first hand how horrible this type of cancer can be and how quick it strikes. Being an ex-smoker and a mother of a young son as well I live with the fear of lung cancer myself.

My prayers are with her son and the rest of her family.
Posted By Anonymous Lisa, Raleigh NC : 4:34 PM ET
Some how and in some way I'm sure Will Reeve will realize or has realized his parents' gift to him...they left a tremendous legacy of hope, courage and strength for him to cary on. If he's anything like his parents, this will not be the only time we see him in the spotlight. God Bless Will Reeve!
Posted By Anonymous Keith Brodhead Jr., Toms River, NJ : 4:34 PM ET
My father, also a non-smoker, was diagnosed with stage 4 (the most advanced) lung cancer.His prognosis was poor. But thanks to drug company researchers, my father has survived for 2 1/2 years by taking the newest monoclonal antibody drugs that fight lung cancer. Unfortunately these drugs only work for a small number of patients. Sadly, these drugs must not have worked for Dana Reeve. It will take more dedicated scientists,and thus more money for research,to make headway against this dreadful disease.
Posted By Anonymous Sue, Custer, South Dakota : 4:37 PM ET
There is not enough data at the present time that CT scan is a good screening test for lung cancer.Why expose ourself to unnecessary radiation!A lot of the time what we believe is the right or logical approach may not be the correct approach.Look at all the contraversies about VitE,estrogens etc.I agree that a lot more research should be done on lung cancer screening and prevention.
Posted By Anonymous Dr.Ng ,CA : 4:37 PM ET
I was touched by the Reeve family after my mother suffered a spinal cord injury from a misdiagnosed staph infection. Their foundation was the ONLY source of hope for us as patient and caregiver. I don't know how they handled his injury and their advocacy for research; spinal cord injuries don't only paralyze the body, they paralyze lives. I hope their work on paralysis will continue, in their memory. Unfortunately, it looks like it may fall victim to another budget cut by the Bush administration.
Posted By Anonymous Michaela Martin, Knoxville, TN : 4:37 PM ET
I had the pleasure of working with Dana a couple of summers ago at Williamstown Theatre Festival, just as Christopher was nearing the end of his struggle, and there is so much to be said for this woman. We spent many afternoons with Dana and her son, Will, and she was a stunning mother and wife, and somehow, I too, never believed that the world would separate her from her son. She will long be remembered for her dignity, grace, and strength, and I hope that when Will grows older, he has many people to remind him how much his mother cared for him, and how blessed he was to have two such strong parents.
Posted By Anonymous Jane, New York, NY : 4:38 PM ET
Such sad news.
I turned 45 last Friday and have been smoking 2 packs a day since my teens. For some reason, I was able to give it up during my three pregnancies, but always went back. I can't seem to find a way to quit... it depresses me at times.
My brother-in-law died of lung cancer when he was 39 years old. Like his brother and me, he was a heavy smoker. You'd think we would have learned. But no, we keep on smoking our lives away... wondering which one of us will be next.
They have rehabs for drug addicts and alcoholics. They have spas and camps for the obese. I wish there was some kind of serious help for those of us with this terrible (and disgusting) addiction.
Posted By Anonymous Donna, Bergenfield, NJ : 4:38 PM ET
My mother died of Lung cancer and she never smoked just like dana Reeve. I feel that more focus should be put finding a cheaper lung scanner that maybe at a certain age we should be screened as part of our yearly checkup.
Right now you have to be either a smoker or coughing up blood before they will invest in a lung scan. I wish strength and I hope Dana's friends and family take good care of her son.
Posted By Anonymous Suzanne Plymouth, MA : 4:38 PM ET
I was devastated to learn of Dana Reeve's death this morning. Especially for her son, who was so young when his father had his tragic accident, lost his father, then right after had to deal with his mother's illness. It is much too much for a child to have to go through. I lost both of my parents 5 months apart at 34, and it was aterrible thing to go through as an adult, let alone a child. Reading some of the other entries here, I see people express disbelief that there are no agreed upon screening options for lung cancer. Having lost my mother last year to pancreatic cancer, I can tell you that despite what you read, I don't believe we are "winning the fight" against cancer at all - there is still much to be done, and I hope this brings awareness to that issue.
Posted By Anonymous karen, los angeles, california : 4:39 PM ET
Yes, you should have known better because life simply isn't fair. All we can do is make a serious effort to take good care of ourselves. And let's not forget to live each day joyfully. The present is truly all we have.
Posted By Anonymous Jamie, Santa Fe : 4:39 PM ET
It was very sad to hear the news about Dana. It immediately brought back my own lost. My sister was younger than Dana, non-smoker like Dana, she is gone too. It was too late when she found out she had the agressive lung cancer that took her life. Prevention is just not available to any of us.
Posted By Anonymous Carmen, Philadelphia, PA : 4:40 PM ET
I'm sure as with other diseases, such as hepatitis,cirhossis,TB,and AIDS there is an unspoken stigma attached to lung cancer that a person's behavior (in this case:smoking) caused the disease and that is why a campaign for education and screening is not as public as with other cancers. I am a female who has never smoked, and because of the attention given to Dana Reeve's disease and subsequent death, perhaps now we can add lung cancer to the long list of cancers we already routinely screen for- or at least know the warning signs of. She and Christopher worked so hard toward their goal of funding and research in the area of spinal cord injuries, and unfortunately, she died of something perhaps we need to raise awareness of despite it being such a voracious killer for so many years.
Posted By Anonymous Christina, Red Hook, NY : 4:41 PM ET
Dr Gupta,
I believe that the tremendous pressure Mrs. Reeves went through with her husband's illness, his apparant progress and eventual demise is a contributory "cause" of the cancer and poor outcome.
Posted By Anonymous Alnoor Ramji, Norwich, CT : 4:42 PM ET
I'm curious to know whether or not Christopher Reeve was a smoker before his injury? Who was the smoker that she was around long enough to have contracted this disease, if in fact, this is a disease that you contract from others? Or, can lung cancer just come on spontaneously, like so many other cancers? The better educated we are as a society about these things, the better it will be for everyone.
Posted By Anonymous Eva, Washington, DC : 4:42 PM ET
My heart goes out to the young man whom lost both of his parents in such a short frame of time.

My Mother is a lung cancer fighter & is currently going through chemotherapy right now & will continue to do so for the rest of her life. She battled colon, ovarian and lung cancer since 1998 and she still continues to battle this disease.

All Americans should be scanned for this. Every year during a physical or every six months if they wish. There should be no set limits in the insurance industry to have this done if it will detect lung cancer at early stages.

I'm thankful that my Mother is able to get these cat scans done so often. Things are caught EARLY ON and are taken care of.
Posted By Anonymous Suzanne - Hopedale, MA. : 4:43 PM ET
My thoughts are with Christopher and Dana's son, Will. With two such extraordinary parents, I can only imagine what a remarkable future he has ahead of him.

Until a better and/or more economical test becomes available, of course everyone over a certain age should have a CT scan of the lungs - just as every women should have periodic ultrasounds or CT scans to screen for ovarian cancer, another lethal form of cancer that's difficult to detect in its early stages.

What better way to honor remarkable people like Dana Reeve, Peter Jennings, and all of the not so famous people who have needlessly died from this unspeakable disease.
Posted By Anonymous Nancy Chicago, Illinois : 4:43 PM ET
I lost two sisters to lung cancer. One was 43 and the other 49. For 4 years after my second sister died, I had several CT scans for preventative measures. It gave me piece of mind for myself, but I will never get over the loss of my sisters. I feel very strongly that those who smoke should quit - at least give it a try.
Posted By Anonymous Ina, Milford, CT : 4:44 PM ET
Life is never 'fair' - but rather than ask "Why me"? Maybe we should ask: "Why Not Me"?
Posted By Anonymous Erik, NH : 4:44 PM ET
It seems that the question "Did he/she smoke?" is asked too frequently when a person is diagnosed with or God forbid dies of cancer. I've often wondered why no one asks similar questions like "was he drunk?" about a car accident victim or "was he overweight?" about a man with heart disease yet could ask a person whose family member is battling cancer if they were a smoker.

Perhaps this touches a nerve because both of my parents have cancer--different kinds in different places--yet cancer and its power to kill just the same. I have been asked innumerable times if they smoked. Does it matter? Does it justify the diagnosis? Is there more sympathy for non-smokers than smokers who die of cancer?

As a medical student about to graduate I am 100% committed to public health awareness about the links between behaviour and disease. Obesity and diabetes, high fat diet and cardiac disease, alcohol and liver disease and, yes, smoking and cancer. However, I ask each of you who read this to consider why such questions are asked...or not asked.

Let us look at our own risk factors for disease and help each other live long and healthfully. Most importantly, let us not insinuate responsiblity on the part of other's whose illnesses MAY have been related to their behaviour. Especially not when they and their families are facing the ultimate consequence of those choices.
Posted By Anonymous Tricia Burns Morris Houston, Texas : 4:44 PM ET
I lost both of my parents within 18 months. I was in my early 20's. It is so unfair. I know what her children are feeling. I am 62 now and it still hurts.

Bess
Seaford, VA
Posted By Anonymous Bess Williams, Seaford, Virginia : 4:44 PM ET
I am saddened to hear of Dana Reeve's death and concerned about lung cancer in general. I quit smoking 11 years ago, but smoked for almost 14 yrs.

I suspect the reason why we dont focus more on lung cancer screening is b/c its main cause is smoking, which is a "choice". But what about those that dont smoke, like Dana or did smoke but successfully quit?

We have thankfully brought more attention to the hazards of smoking and ways to quit over the last decade or so, which is great. There's also been more support groups/programs created to help people kick the habit. But now we need to take it a step further. I think screening is a good idea.
Christopher and his wife championed spinal chord injury cures...and now we need someone who will champion lung cancer prevention and cures. Dana would have been perfect for the job.
So in honor of her, we should start a Lung Cancer Awareness & Screening program.
Posted By Anonymous Dawn M. West Palm Beach, FL : 4:44 PM ET
There is a stigma associated with Lung
Cancer. It is felt that one brings it on oneself. Why bother feeling sorry for those who smoked in spite of knowing the possible result? Perhaps the death of this lovely, non-smoking woman will bring a different perspective to the public. We could
do a lot better with this killer disease, just as we have done with other forms of cancer. My brother
died in 2000 at age 55, just three months after his diagnosis. Yes, he
smoked. We miss him anyway.
Posted By Anonymous Jodene Perrin-Gill, San Jose, CA : 4:46 PM ET
News of Dana's death this morning came as a real shock especially because of her young age. Until we get some more details, we can only speculate. Was she exposed to asbestos somewhere or was this a spontaneous form of lung cancer. Obviously, it didn't come from smoking. She and Chris were a very loving couple and a tremendous inspiration. They were also strong supporters of cancer, animal and stem-cell research that will eventually provide the keys to unlock the mysteries and cures for cancer as well as how medical experts will be able to regenerate spinal and other nerve injuries. Well, they are both in heaven now looking down at son, Will, who we hope will be in good hands.
Posted By Anonymous Matt Kessler, Charlottesville, VA : 4:47 PM ET
Dana Reeve was a remarkable woman in many, many ways. It is tragic for someone so full of life and hope and strength to be cut down by cancer at the very young age of 44. I lost my father to lung cancer when he was 53 and I was just 8. Fortunately, 34 years later, I still have my mother, so I can only partially relate to the kind of loss the Reeves' son, Will, is coping with. Yet, despite how tragic this is, I think it's fair to say that Will probably enjoyed a much deeper, richer bond with both of his parents in their limited time together than many people ever achieve despite many more years together. Any of us can go at any time. Look at all who lost their lives on 9/11. It's never about the number of years, it's about what we choose to do with them and how much living we squeeze into those years. It's unfair, yet this kind of unfairness occurs all the time. I do hope that Will is strengthened by the enduring spirit of both of his parents and what I'm sure is a strong support system. My faith tells me that my father is waiting for me on the other side, and I believe Will be reunited with his parents one day, too.
Posted By Anonymous Kelly, South Bend, IN : 4:47 PM ET
What about her greaving for a once active and wonderful husband and her caring for him as long as she did.I think this has alot to do with the wellness and recovery of someone.
Posted By Anonymous Pat Melaragno Naples Fl. : 4:48 PM ET
I was so sorry to hear of Dana Reeve's death from lung cancer. I thought she was doing well.

My husband died of lung cancer at age 48; he lived for 18 months. He, too, had no symptoms, even though he was a smoker. His doctor told me that most times even a CT scan won't pick up lung tumors until they are so large that they have spread. I just don't know the answer; however, I hope and pray that there is new strides made in the fight of this terrible disease.

My prayers go out to Will and Dana's family.
Posted By Anonymous Patricia Willason, Dallas, TX : 4:48 PM ET
I have lost both my parents to pancreatic cancer so my heart goes out to Dana's son. My father died on July 20, 2000 and my mom just dies on February 4, 2006.

Cancer research and screening is such an important field of science.
Posted By Anonymous Kevin Johnston, Quincy MA : 4:49 PM ET
Dana and Chris were inspirations. My heart aches for the loss their 13 year old son must feel. I can't imagine. What a tragedy for him to lose both parents at such a young age.
Posted By Anonymous L Mantini, Dunbarton NH : 4:49 PM ET
Hi,
My mother was diagnosed with 4th degree breast cancer in 2001 and was treated for the same. She has been on medication ever since and doing well by God's grace.
My question is a very generic one. When we hear the term 'cancer' we get scared and think it is the end of the world and start counting days for our loved ones. However from what i understand there are cures and remedies for certain types of cancer and with the right medication people survive & lead a healthy life. I guess my question is around what is being done to remove this misconception from people's minds that cancer is the end of the world? Why is there a shroud of secrecy around advancements in cancer research? There should be more government approved ads or articles around how people can be more optimistic towards life when they or someone they know has been diagnosed with this disease.
Posted By Anonymous Veena, Issaquah, WA : 4:49 PM ET
My heart just cries for Will to have lost both his parents, in such a short time, at such a young age. I'm 42 and just learned last Friday my Dad, who is only 68 and has never been sick a day in his life, has cancer in the pancreas and liver, thought to have been brought on by lung cancer. I know the pain I am going through and can hardly believe it, at my age, I cannot imagine what Will is going through.

The medical profession has made great strides in some many ways but to have one of the greatest killers, lung cancer, go undetected until its too late for too many people, is unconscionable. The medical profession, the insurance companies, our governments need to work together to come up with ways to detect it. And we, the people, need to start demanding it ... loudly.
Posted By Anonymous Mary Starr, Franklin, WI : 4:49 PM ET
My mother died at age 54 from small cell lung cancer. She was a smoker, but hadn't smoked in 12 yrs. Clearly the years of smoking did horrible damage to her lungs. I don't smoke, but I have read that genetics play a role. I'm 40 years old and am starting to think that I should insist on a CAT scan during my annual physical. Lung cancer is a horrible disease that needs more attention.
Posted By Anonymous Michael Phillips, Fort Worth, TX : 4:50 PM ET
My heart goes out to Will and the rest of the Reeves family. It really hits home to me as my mother is a 2 time lung cancer survivor. She had a lobe removed in 1994 and another one 8 years later in 2002. She is doing very well and will be 77 years old this year. I realize how lucky we have been that she has survived so long. God Bless you Dana. I am sure you and Christopher are together in Heaven where Chris is walking again.
Posted By Anonymous Karen S Tampa FL. : 4:50 PM ET
Why do so many of the postings discuss her death in terms of what she or her son deserved? Do "bad" people deserve to die more than "good" people? Many of you make references to God and religion - don't any of you believe that your God has a plan and purpose for us all?

Perhaps after leaving your comments on the blog, the next step for action is to donate your time or resources to the American Cancer Society or a similar organization to fund the research necessary to fight this awful disease. Ms. Reeve's death shows us that none of us are exempt from the possibilities of cancer so isn't it our duty to fund what may someday become our fate?
Posted By Anonymous Lisa, San Francisco, CA : 4:51 PM ET
I was just blown away this am to learn that dear Dana - a model of life for all - had succumbed to non-smoking lung cancer -

My initial focus was on their dear son, Will, who might remember the athletic dad, but clearly remembered the needy paralyzed Dad - but someone who MUST have given him vision and inspiration......
May young Will's memories of his brilliant parents (who will inspire him to a good place...in his own time) remind us all the our parent's struggles, for better or worse, are there as an inspiration-a role model-a model, perhaps, not to follow.

A tragic day for those who have tracked the noble journey of Christopher and Dana Reeve for years -

My journey included Williamstown, MA - how lucky I was to see such a fabulous duo in their theatres............

May God rock you with comfort........and Will will be treasured - trust in God.
Posted By Anonymous gflynn,cohasset, ma : 4:52 PM ET
I am saddened by the death of Dana Reeve. I was hoping for so much better for her and some happiness after 9+ years of taking care of her husband before his death.

I am a colon cancer survivor (2 years now) and feel very fortunate for that because my doctor was not willing to take the necessary tests after I described symptoms. I changed doctors and the process was quicker after I did, but I ran the risk of my cancer spreading during the wait. Thanks to good doctors (finally) and good treatment, I am in remission and expected to have a full cure. Early detection is the key and technology should have provided that for all forms of cancer by now. Cancer is a pernicious bastard and will never be fully conquered.
Posted By Anonymous Jacky Spaulding, Napa, CA : 4:52 PM ET
I am devasted. My sister, also a nonsmoker, died of lung cancer this year also - 10 months after diagnosis. Her diagnosis came after her femur broke and they discovered the tumor that weakened the bone came from her lung. I want to know WHY there is no early screening since lung cancer kills more folks than breast and prostate cancer combined. Most people say, "Well, they are smokers - they deserve it," or some such nonsense. How unfair! Who is doing research on this and who can we who are interested donate to to make sure this research is done? I have found research only on the "cancer dogs" and on certain levels of telomerase in the blood as an indicator. Who is doing this research? Please tell me how to help!
Posted By Anonymous Betty Commanday, Beaufort, SC : 4:52 PM ET
Mr. Gupta and CNN staff,

I just want to say that the Reeve's were and always will people SUPER people in my eyes. My prayers are with there children, especially Will, as I also am a parent of a 14yr old child. Technology will advance as the years go by. I'm hopefull that one day there will be a break-through to detect early Lung Cancer. Sometimes when people die of lung cancer, you hear people say, "Well they should not have been smoking, and this would not have taken place". But, as you reported, smoking is not always the case. But for the most part, it is. I gave up smoking just for this reason. They don't call them CANCER STICKS for nothing. Keep up the good work SG.
Posted By Anonymous Dennis Marko, Kankakee, IL : 4:52 PM ET
I am so saddened to hear about the death of Dana Reeve. Her love and devotion to her husband was touching. Her advocacy on behalf of those with spinal cord injuries was inspiring. My heart breaks for their son Will. I hope he has people to lean on in his time of grief. This must serve as a wakeup call to all of us to pay more attention to lung cancer. We must demand more research into prevention, testing and treatment. We must also take better care of our environment. Otherwise, her death will have been in vain.
Posted By Anonymous Diego M. Santiago, Esq., Bronx, NY : 4:54 PM ET
So very sad to hear about Dana Reeve,especially her son Will, what is going to happen to him now!! Why is it that some people beat the cancer like Lance Armstrong but others die quicklly??!
Posted By Anonymous Rebecca Valdez,San Jose,Ca. : 4:56 PM ET
I was raised in a house with three smokers. As a child, I suffered many upper respiratory and ear infections. I had been seeing the same ENT specialist for years and when I was old enough to take myself to see the doctor, he told me that the reason for my chronic infections were due to second hand smoke at home. He advised me to ask my parents not to smoke around me. They were hardcore smokers and it didn't go over too well. My father had his first heart attack at 42 and was 56 when he died from a heart attack. My mother was diagnosed with lung cancer at 55 and three months later was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Although both tumors were operable she suffered a stroke at 57 years of age and her health declined rapidly after that. She passed away at age 64. I'm now 42 and often think about all the smoke I was exposed to as a child. I know my chances are a lot higher than someone who didn't have the exposer I did. Should I start having yearly CT Scans?
Posted By Anonymous Laurie Matthews, N : 4:57 PM ET
Sanja,
Maybe you could tell people about the Radon testing kits for their home. I think that they are available in every state.
Bonnie Marple
Posted By Anonymous Bonnie Marple / Durham, NC : 4:59 PM ET
I was raised in a house with three smokers. As a child, I suffered many upper respiratory and ear infections. I had been seeing the same ENT specialist for years and when I was old enough to take myself to see the doctor, he told me that the reason for my chronic infections were due to second hand smoke at home. My father had his first heart attack at 42 and was 56 when he died from a heart attack. My mother was diagnosed with lung cancer at 55 and three months later was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Although both tumors were operable she suffered a stroke at 57 years of age and her health declined rapidly after that. After years of suffering, she passed away at age 64. I'm now 42 and often think about all the smoke I was exposed to as a child. I know my chances are a lot higher than someone who didn't have the exposer I did. Should I start having yearly CT Scans?
Posted By Anonymous Laurie Matthews, NC : 5:00 PM ET
My heart is breaking for this poor child. It makes you wonder, though, what we can do to detect lung cancer. Even if a small percentage of its victims were never smokers, even one non-smoker who dies from lung cancer should be a red flag to the medical community - we need detection methods. The screening advancements made in the last few years, the improvements in the technologies - surely there must be SOMETHING we can do. I smoked for a good 20 years before quitting about 8 years ago. I recently developed a nagging cough. Now I wonder, should I get screened? Is this just allergies? Will my insurance company laugh this off as hysteria and unnecessary expense? I have a 13 year old son too. I don't want him to lose his only parent because my insurance company thinks I'm being hysterical or there just isn't a way medically to look in my lungs and tell me what's going on...
Posted By Anonymous Karen, Boca Raton, FL : 5:00 PM ET
Lung cancer hit my family 10 years ago. My mother was diagnosed at the age of 48 and was given 6 months to live. She had most of her right lung removed, followed by a year of chemo and radiation to her brain. She was, and still is, a smoker. Yes, she is still alive 10 years later. She was extremely lucky, but still so addicted that she hasn't quit smoking. Pretty stupid, huh? Aside from emphysema, she is in fair health. She has sustained some significant short term memory damage from the brain radiation. I was only 23 when she was diagnosed and feel as though I have been mourning her for the last 10 years. Given that she is still smoking, I feel she is living on borrowed time. Watching anyone with lung cancer suffer is wrenching...let alone someone like Mrs. Reeve who never smoked. Until this country wakes up to the fact that ANYONE with prolonged exposure to smoke/toxins is susceptible to lung cancer, more and more of our young, vibrant citizens will die. In my family, we call cigarettes "cancer sticks."
Posted By Anonymous Michelle Davis, Omaha NE : 5:00 PM ET
I can not say that lung cancer comes from 2nd hand smoke.My dad and step dad smoked 3 to 4 packs a day for years my mothers mother and father and brother smoked for years.My mother is 87 years old and plays shuffelboard ,Bingo 3 nights a week and works in grocery stores on weekends handing out coupons...She is healthy as a horse.I did smoke and quit 6 years ago,they found my ca and removed 1/3rd of my rt upper lobe in 2003.I keep hoping it does not come back or pop up some where else.I am waiting for my 5 year date with bated breath.
Posted By Anonymous Pat Melaragno.Naples Fl. : 5:01 PM ET
I lost my husband to lung cancer (caused from Agent Orange .. due to his tour in Viet Nam). By the time his cancer was found, it was too advanced. He went through chemo, radiation, and 3 trial programs. His employer provied a chest x-ray every year. However this was not enough to detect the cancer. If insurance companies would allow a CT scan instead of simple x-rays, lung cancer could be detected earlier. I know from the experiece we went through, that the CT scans are less expensive as a preventive measure, than the horrific cost of cancer treatments. Early detection is the only way to combat this devestating disease.
Posted By Anonymous Karen Fisk Symsonia, Ky : 5:02 PM ET
My heart and blessings go out to the young man. I lost my parents on 02/94 (father from stroke complications), and 07/98 (mother from ovarian cancer), and let me tell you, when the second parent dies it really changes your outlook. Even though my parents died within 4 years of each other, the second death is just as hard, if not harder, as the first. You get that "who am I now?" thinking in your mind, and it takes a lot to pull oneself out of such a rut.

I can only hope that he has good role models and supportive people around him, and that he views this as his time to take his name and make it his own.

Tragic loss - especially given the fact his mother WAS NOT a smoker. That is the most telling item. She was on the other side of fence, and cancer still claimed her life.

Again, prayers and blessings.
Posted By Anonymous Craig Russell Houston,TX : 5:03 PM ET
The very first thing I thought of when hearing the incredibly tragic news of Dana Reeves' death was of her and Christopher's son. My thoughts and prayers are with this young man who has had to cope with more tragedy than some experience in their entire lives, all within 13 short years.
Posted By Anonymous Debra, New Hudson, Michigan : 5:04 PM ET
I can relate to Wil in that I lost both my parents in two weeks - my father to a two year battle with lung cancer (he hadn't smoked in 30 years). Fortunately I was 33 and had much more time with them than poor Will was allotted. My heart goes out to him.

But as to your questions "Should we place a bigger focus on it in the media? Should more funding go toward treatment as it kills more people than breast, prostate and colon cancer combined?" I offer a resounding YES!!

I hope the media takes a hard look at this issue after this loss, and the loss of Peter Jennings. American Cancer Society is NOT doing enough to counter this. There is not the political will due to the stigma smoking carries which means Congress isn't going to push for funding. I would love to see health reporters like yourself put more exposure on this issue on a regular basis (not just when someone famous dies).
Posted By Anonymous Karen Anderson, Alexandria, VA : 5:05 PM ET
I was shocked when I heard the news of Mrs. Reeve's death, as I am sure many people were. I think she was a great lady just from what I have read about her and seen of her on television. She gave me the impression of someone very strong, courageous, and also humble. The same could be said for Christopher Reeve as well. They took a very life altering situation and molded it into something positive so that others may benefit- very selfless and noble in my opinion. My thoughts and prayers are with the remaining family, we stand with you.
Posted By Anonymous Ken Indianola Mississippi : 5:05 PM ET
My mother died of Lung Cancer in 1990 when I was 10 years old. I agree that there should be more Lung Cancer prevention and awareness, but I hope to god they don't start a " wear a special color" month for Lung Cancer. In my opinion the special color month (like pink for breast cancer) is silly and takes away from the real issue. I think the lung cancer association should encourage people to get a CT scan every year in conjuntion with the great american smokeout.
Posted By Anonymous Joe Philly PA : 5:06 PM ET
Dr. Gupta,

I have to wonder, what role do you think stress has in developing cancer? Mrs. Reeve was under so much after her husband was injured, caring for him all those years and then her mother dying of ovarian cancer...perhaps she had genetic predisposition and also having sang in smoky clubs didn't help...but do you believe that stress can give a person cancer? From all the friends and loved ones I have seen develop cancer after particularly stressful periods of their lives, I do.
Posted By Anonymous Christine Cafaro, Westland MI : 5:07 PM ET
My husband, Frank and I were very saddened and suprised to hear of Dana's passing. Our prayers are with her family.
Frank found out in September of 2005 that he has Type 3B lung cancer. He had a cough for a few years that would not go away. He was treated for allergys, bronchitis, and other lung problems. He finally demanded to see a lung specialist. After a CT Scan it was determined that he had Lung Cancer. He never smoked!
Good news is that the tumor has shrunk 57% after 15 treatments. He has 9 more to go. Fortunately he has not been too sick. He gets tired a few days after treatment and his legs have been hurting some, but other than that he looks good and has a wonderful attitude for a man of 74 years old.
We try to make every day special and hope a cure can be found soon.
Posted By Anonymous Terry, Hampton,VA : 5:07 PM ET
Dr. Gupta,
When I heard that this courageous lady was gone, I was saddened. I'm 59 and at 44, well it was just too young. But illness is no respecter of persons. It could be any of us. I trust in human intellect to develop some treatment/cure for spinal injuries and lung cancer. My heart goes out to the Reeve family and to Kirby Puckett's family as well.
Posted By Anonymous Brenda, Auburn MA : 5:11 PM ET
I don't believe people are aware of what a stealthy and vicious killer lung cancer is. Last Spring, my parents left my father's doctor's office relieved to have been told that his sudden back pain was caused only by mild arthritis - and that his lung xray, 'just to see' since Dad was a smoker, was clear. Less than 24 hours later, he was in an emergency room, paralyzed with an excrutiating spinal tumor, and diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. Three months later he was gone. I was furious with his doctor at the time, but realize now that this is not an unusual story.
Posted By Anonymous Melissa, Houston, TX : 5:12 PM ET
My grandparents, father, brother, sister, husband, and friends smoke. I have never smoked a day in my life, nor do I ever plan to smoke. What angers me is that people should know better in this day and age and have the opportunity to do something about this addiction, but yet they still start smoking and they encourage their children to smoke, by doing it in front of them and it is glorified on TV and in movies. I really thought we had more intelligent people in the world that knew better than to start smoking.
Posted By Anonymous Ashlee V. Huntington, WV : 5:15 PM ET
Our burn, slash, and poison treatment response to cancer has existed for over 50 years, with no apparent change to these methods in sight. Maybe we should be asking questions about the economic and political system that has promoted the development of a multi-billion dollar annual business for medical related businesses. With such significant income, why change the traditional formula for diagnosis and treatment? Could the established medical, pharmaceutical and research systems tolerate a significant change in the status quo?
Posted By Anonymous Joel Ambelang, Mequon, Wisconsin : 5:17 PM ET
No one in America is a non-smoker. Until very recently, second hand smoke was everywhere. Absolutely everywhere- planes, restaurants, movie theaters. Children were exposed to years of smoking though they never lit a cigarette. To call Dana Reeve a non-smoker would be a technicality. All of her life she, like everyone, has been subjected to smoke in her environment.
Though she may have had a lung cancer not associated with smoking, to say she was never exposed to cigarette smoke is not true.
Posted By Anonymous Lynn Cooper, Redmond WA : 5:18 PM ET
We all know that smoking is addictive, and unless you have smoked, you don't realize how hard it is to quit. Part of lung cancer prevention needs to be a real plan to help smokers stop. Simply telling them to quit is not enough. We need to eliminate the addictive qualities of tobacco.
Posted By Anonymous hvalentine, tampa florida : 7:46 PM ET
My mother's mother died from lung cancer and emphysema. My mother still smokes. My mother's friends, one by one, are dying from lung cancer. My mother still smokes. It's only a matter of time before my mother develops it and dies as well. Her refusal to give up smoking (or even to make a serious attempt) shows a complete disregard for those of us that love her, including her grandchildren.

Unlike most other types of cancer, lung cancer is almost always the result of personal choice and is thus almost always preventable. I fail to understand why we as a society should divert precious resources and medical research away from diseases that target truly innocent victims to help save or prolong the lives of people who disregard life by choosing to smoke.
Posted By Anonymous Michael N, Redding, CA : 8:30 PM ET
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