Death of Reeve#039;s widow draws new attention to one of nation#039;s biggest killers

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 29, 2006

With the recent death of Dana Reeve, widow of Superman actor Christopher Reeve, new attention has been drawn to a disease that kills more people each year than breast and colorectal cancer combined.

Many people are under the impression that just because they do not smoke, they are not susceptible to this deadly disease. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Dana Reeve passed away March 6 at the age of 44 despite never having smoked, nor having been exposed to second-hand smoke.

Statistics show that smoking causes more than 80 percent of lung cancer cases, but one in five women who develop lung cancer have never smoked.

Although lung cancer is one of the most preventable forms of cancer, it is also difficult to diagnose and treat. Patients generally do not develop symptoms of the disease until it is too late.

The best course of action seems to be to maintain regular checkups with a doctor and to immediately report any symptoms that develop, such as shortness of breath or the coughing up of blood.

New cancer treatments are offering hope to some cancer patients, allowing physicians to better diagnose the disease and improve treatment with chemotherapy and radiation.

However, despite progress, about 60 percent of people with lung cancer still die within the first year of being diagnosed, according to American Cancer Society statistics.

Globally, lung cancer is the world’s leading killer, with more than one million new cases each year.

In 2006, there were about 1.2 million new cases of lung cancer and approximately 1.3 million deaths worldwide, according to the American Cancer Society.