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Letter: Lung cancer warning

Aug. 1 was the third annual World Lung Cancer Day, a day to pause to remember those who are fighting lung cancer as well as those who have lost their lives to this insidious disease. Lung cancer is the No. 1 adult cancer killer in the U.S., claiming over 160,000 lives annually.

Because lung cancer is generally asymptomatic until it metastasizes outside of the lungs, it is often referred to as the “Invisible Disease,” and frequently goes undetected or misdiagnosed, until it has advanced to a late incurable stage.

At this time, only 15 percent of patients diagnosed in the late stages will survive 5 years. Although early detection and screening has been a topic of great concern and study, the guidelines established by the American Cancer Society continue to leave a large percentage of the population ineligible for screening. Anyone who breathes can get lung cancer; radon, asbestos, diesel, poor air quality, environmental pollutants, chemical toxicity, occupational exposures, genetics are all known factors that contribute to causing lung cancer.

This leaves all of us at risk; smokers and nonsmokers alike. Having lost my 29-year-old son Silas to lung cancer six years ago, it saddens me that this disease continues to be misunderstood and highly stigmatized.

Lung cancer patients deserve the same support and compassion afforded people with other cancers and major diseases. In reality, lung cancer patients face the same physical, emotional and financial hardships as any other cancer patient. They battle the same fears, depression, losses and grueling treatments. No one with cancer of any type finds it helpful to be blamed for their disease.

Let’s unite in supporting research for early detection, treatments and cures for lung cancer. And the next time you hear of someone battling lung cancer or someone who has lost a loved one to this disease, please keep smoking out of the conversation — no one deserves cancer and we are all in this human race together.

LORRAINE KERZ

Greenfield

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