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.