Dispelling the myths of lung cancer

By Britney Glaser - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women in every ethnic group. There are misconceptions about this disease, though, that have many people thinking that they could never actually get this diagnosis.

Growing up, Angela Franks had ongoing bronchial problems.  "I always had bronchitis, just different things like colds," says Angela, "and a lot of emergency room visits."

Not knowing the effects of second-hand smoke on their child, Angela's parents smoked for the first 12 years of her life.  Once they kicked the habit, it didn't take long for Angela's health problems to clear up - until around the age of 25.  "I'd be short of breath and have a tough time keeping up with my mom," she says, "and I contributed that to being out of shape."

Then at 28 years old, Angela began coughing up blood.  "It became more frequent, where it was once a week and then it became daily and at that time," she says, "I decided I needed to do something about it - that this must be something serious."

A chest x-ray showed a spot on the upper right lobe of Angela's lung. Her oncologist recommended chemotherapy and a lobectomy.  "We did a lobectomy where they remove the upper right lobe of my lung and then we decided because of my age, it would be best to go through chemotherapy," says Angela.

While the number one risk factor for lung cancer is smoking, Dr. Gary Kohler with Pulmonary Associates of Southwest Louisiana says the majority of people diagnosed with lung cancer have never smoked.  "We see a higher incidence of lung cancer in people who've never smoked," says Dr. Kohler, "especially in younger people."

Dr. Kohler says that there are certain symptoms to take seriously.  "Probably one of the most common things is a cough," he says, "other things can be shortness of breath, coughing up blood, weight loss."

The best way to avoid the disease is to avoid smoking or being around smoke. And early detection is key to surviving lung cancer.  Angela says, "I waited for two years after having symptoms before going to the doctor and my situation could've been much different had my cancer not been growing very slowly."

Now, Angela is cancer-free and hoping her story will encourage others to take a closer look at their own health.

Research dollars for lung cancer are still way behind funding for others - like colon, breast and pancreas. If you want to help raise money for this cause and have some fun doing it, there are two opportunities.

*First, you can attend the second annual "Free to Breathe" breakfast this Friday at 7:30 A.M. at the Lake Charles Civic Center. Tickets are $25.

*The next day, Saturday, lace up your tennis shoes and head back out to the Civic Center for a 5K run or 1 mile walk. It starts at 8:30 A.M. and you can register by clicking here.

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