June 10, 2013

Women [and] Lung Cancer: Inspirational Stories

Women [and] Lung Cancer:

Two Inspirational Stories

I started following Faces of Lung Cancer months ago [and] let me tell you I have learned SO much about lung cancer as a disease, but even more so about the stigma that walks hand in hand with a diagnosis of lung cancer through Deana Hendrickson’s twitter campaign under the twitter handle @LungCancerFaces which is why I invited Deana to guest post here at myHeart.

Her post includes some startling statistics in terms of incidence, funding, survival rates, and death rates.

To follow is an incredible education [and] the stories of two inspiring individuals, I hope you will read on…

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in both women and men in the United States, killing approximately 160,000 each year. It kills twice as many women as breast cancer and three times as many men as prostate cancer. In fact, lung cancer is responsible for 1/3 of all US cancer deaths.

Although it has been unfairly stigmatized as a smoker’s disease, about 15% of those with the disease have never smoked and greater than half have already stopped smoking, some decades ago, after having started in their teens.

This stigma has resulted in a significant research funding disparity as compared with other major cancers contributing to a dismal 5-year survival rate of less than 16%.

Federal Funding
Federal Funding
Survival by Site
Survival by Site

You can read more about lung cancer stigma here:


Although it’s often thought of as a disease of older men, lung cancer affects younger women, as well. A whopping 20% (1 in 5) American women diagnosed are never-smokers. In these cases, factors such as radon exposure, genetics and pollution, among other causes, come into play. Whether they’ve smoked or not, no one deserves this awful disease, nor should anyone die from this disease.

Deaths by Site
Deaths by Site

Above images courtesy of Lung Cancer Foundation of America

Here are just a few profiles of this “new” face of lung cancer in younger women. Perhaps their courage will provide the inspiration to look at lung cancer in a different light.


Linnea Duff
Linnea Duff

Linnea Duff

In 2005, at 45, Linnea Duff was diagnosed with lung cancer despite the fact she never smoked. After a lobectomy and chemotherapy, she had high hopes of a cure. Just two short years later, Linnea found her lung cancer was back, this time at Stage IV. Through advances in genetic testing, her oncologist discovered she had a particular mutation known as ALK, for which there was a phase I clinical trial to study a targeted therapy, Xalkori. Linnea enrolled in that trial and had a fairly spectacular response to treatment.

You can follow Linnea’s blog: http://outlivinglungcancer.com/ which chronicles her journey.

Jog for Jill
Jog for Jill

Jill Costello was just 21 when she felt a pain in her stomach. Since she was the coxswain for the UC Berkeley women’s varsity crew, she went to her trainer. This led to Jill’s diagnosis of Stage IV lung cancer. A gifted student athlete, Jill had never smoked and was in peak physical condition. Sadly, Jill died a year after diagnosis, but she has not been forgotten.

ESPN filmed an especially beautiful segment on Jill: http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=6682193

The charitable foundation, Jill’s Legacy: http://jillslegacy.org/ continues to raise research funds and awareness in her memory.

Lung Cancer Resources and Information:

Bonnie J. Addario Foundation: http://www.lungcancerfoundation.org/

Lung Cancer Alliance: http://www.lungcanceralliance.org/

Lung Cancer Foundation of America: http://www.lcfamerica.org/

Lungevity: http://events.lungevity.org/site/PageServer

National Lung Cancer Partnership: http://www.nationallungcancerpartnership.org/

myHeart encourages you to follow @LungCancerFaces on twitter to learn more about lung cancer and the impact a stigma can have on the progress made in curing an disease.

Deana, thank you for sharing these facts and the stories of these inspiring women with us. myHeart is privileged to be part of your @LungCancerFaces Tribe!

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