Jill Feldman does not smoke, but she is alert to being screened for lung cancer since the disease decimated her family.
At the age of 13 she lost two grandparents within a few weeks. Only a few months later, her father also made a diagnosis after complaining about a bad cough. When he died, he was only 41 years old.
When she was 20 years old, her mother also contracted lung cancer and died, followed by a close aunt – five loved ones who had died in just over a decade.
Then at 39 "Imagine how you would feel if you were diagnosed with the same disease that you literally watched as you killed both your mother and father," she said TODAY.
More men and women die each year from lung cancer than from colorectal, breast and prostate cancers. Often it is recognized late ̵
But thanks to two operations Feldman suffers from the disease more than a decade later – a proof that advances in treatment have changed everything.
Feldman's cancer is incurable but trapped in her breast. The goal is to treat it as long as possible as a chronic disease. Her targeted therapy is in the form of a pill that she takes every day until the cancer develops resistance to the drug.
Such therapies mean that some lung cancers are no longer a death sentence. Helena Yu, a medical oncologist at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
She displayed CT images of another patient in whom lung tumors had largely disappeared after three months of treatment. The combination of treatments has proven to be more effective than relying on one approach.
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Researchers now know that not every lung cancer is the same: there are several types and gene mutations that can trigger the disease. Physicians can categorize it by genetic material to find a personalized treatment for each patient's disease. However, the proportion of people with lung cancer eligible for targeted therapy is still "fairly low" – about 25%, Yu said.
There are also markers that tell doctors if patients are well suited for immunotherapy. Molecular tests are the key to determining a patient's cancer.
Research is crucial, but funding is not easy. While lung cancer kills more men and women than colon cancer, breast cancer, and prostate cancer together, only 6% of federal research funds flow into the disease.
There were not that many survivors with lung cancer, "Yu said.
" There is a stigma associated with lung cancer where people think, 'If someone never smokes, they never get lung cancer.'
Dealing with the Stigma
When Feldman was diagnosed, question # 1, how long she had been smoking, was frustrating for non smokers.
apology. What can I do to help? "With lung cancer, you are instantly put on the defensive.
One in seven people suffering from lung cancer has never smoked a cigarette, Yu said.
Someone in the US diagnoses lung cancer every 2 minutes and 20 seconds rding to the American Lung Association. Feldman and other patients argue at this rate that it does not matter if a person smokes or not – everyone deserves to find a cure for the disease.
Feldman's mission is to reduce the stigma surrounding lung cancer and to change people's perception of it.
She is the former president of LUNGevity, an organization dedicated to funding scientific research and co-founder of advocacy for her cancer. Being able to connect with others who have had the same experiences is a "lifeline" and makes a big difference.
She and her 24-year-old husband have four children. Your diagnosis still weighs on the family.
Over the last three years, the US Food and Drug Administration has approved more lung cancer treatments than the last three decades, and so on.
"I never used the word hope in the same sentence as lung cancer because, in my experience, there was none. But now there is hope. It's real hope, "said Feldman.
So real that she decided to tattoo the word on her arm as a permanent reminder.
The Best Chance to Combat Lung Cancer Early
Early detection is still difficult because the symptoms can be confused with other common diseases such as pneumonia.
The American Lung Association says warning signs are:
- A cough that does not does go away and gets worse over time
- constant chest pain
- shortness of breath or wheezing
- frequent lung infections such as bronchitis or pneumonia
- coughing blood
There is no good way to do so Early detection of lung cancer, as imaging often detects false positives that lead to unnecessary invasive surgery and more harm than good The goal is to offer a simple blood test in the future that does not yet exist, said Yu.
For now, the best advice is to be screened for lung cancer every year if you have smoked heavily in the past and are 55 years or older.