Lung Cancer Awareness Month: One Family's Story

Posted by on November 30, 2019 at 7:10 PM

                                                                               Lung Cancer Month: One Family’s Story


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2019), lung cancer is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. CDC reported that cigarette smoking is the number one cause of lung cancer in the nation, and is linked to about 90% of lung cancer cases. In fact, people who smoke cigarettes are 15 to 30 times more likely to get lung cancer or die from lung cancer than people who do not smoke. Even smoking a few cigarettes a day or smoking occasionally increases the risk of lung cancer (CDC, 2019). Additionally, the more years a person smokes and the more cigarettes smoked each day, the more risk for lung cancer goes up. But, quitting smoking at any age can lower the risk of lung cancer. Interestingly, the (CDC, 2019) also reported that cigarette smoking can cause cancer almost anywhere in the body. In fact, cigarette smoking causes cancer of the mouth and throat, esophagus, stomach, colon, rectum, liver, pancreas, voice-box (larynx), trachea, bronchus, kidney and renal pelvis, urinary bladder, and cervix, and causes acute myeloid leukemia.

November is observed in the U.S. as lung cancer awareness month and with these startling statistics, one wonders how to reduce one’s risk for this condition. So, preventing this condition should be top of mind for most of us. Unfortunately, this November, lung cancer became a reality for our family when my oldest brother was diagnosed with the disease. For me with decades of experience in public health, this was no longer a public health statistics, but lung cancer now had a face. On a recent visit, as I watched my brother cough and struggle to breathe, sadness and a feeling of helplessness washed over me. He had refused surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and other treatment options and had one wish, he wanted to go home to Jamaica. I felted even more helpless and confused as he explained that he was 68 years of age and at peace. Unwillingly, I had to resign myself to honoring his wishes and to support him and his plans for managing his condition.

But, what you might ask got us to this diagnosis? You guess it, smoking! As the statistics showed, my brother became addicted to cigarettes and smoked for an extensive period. Like most smokers, he tried to quit several times, but never successfully escaped the addiction to tobacco. So, what now for our family you might ask? We will work hard to honor my brother's wishes to return to Jamaica where he feels that he will be more active and comfortable. We will continue to pray and fast for a miracle. Most importantly, we pray that he will rededicate his life to Christ, so that true peace can be his for all eternity.

So, what is the message for those in my family or yours this November as we work to build awareness about lung cancer? What messages do we provide for those who smoke, have tried to smoke, or are considering smoking? I am glad you asked. First, CDC suggests that you don’t start to smoke if you are not currently smoking. Next, if you smoke, call the Quitline to get help quitting. Third, avoid second-hand smoke at all cost. Fourth, lower exposure to workplace risk factors, and finally, lower your exposure to radon. While this might seems like quite a list, these are all attainable goals which if achieved can lower one’s risk for lung cancer, and provide a better outcome to your family than what we are currently dealing with in mine.

As we look to build awareness about lung cancer and to reduce the number of smokers in the United States, please share your family stories with us about this or other forms of cancer, and keep my brother and our entire family in your thoughts and prayers.

Until next time!

Dr. Meg





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