A new study by the American Cancer Association shows cancer rates are decreasing across the board, except when it comes to incidence rates of lung cancer. In Nevada, health experts say the findings are especially troublesome, given our high number of smokers. Our troubled economy could make that problem even worse.
In 2006, 175,000 Americans were diagnosed with lung cancer and 160,000 of those people died. Lung cancer shows fewer symptoms than many other cancers and therefore has a much higher death rate. It's a fact many survivors learn to cope with early on.
Survivor Cindy Dunzan said she was not afriad to die She relied on God to get her through the reality that her time on earth may be limited.
90 percent of cases are linked to smoking which means prevention and education are the keys to success. However, in Nevada, where 21.5 percent of people smoke, that may be easier said than done.
According to survivor Jay Pittilla, "It was the crowd and rebellious nature -- knowing people looked down on it was part of the draw of having that cigarette."
A number of different factors play into lung cancer rates. It's a lifestyle issue, so more smokers equate to higher lung cancer rates, but it can be a political issue as well. Funding can have a large effect on lung cancer rates.
Last legislative session, Nevada's funding of tobacco cessation programs was cut. Given our current economy it could be futher reduced. If that happens... experts like Renown's Cancer Program Coordinator, Sheila Baez, says the uphill battle will only get worse.
"Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States and worldwide, they're increasing at an epidemic rate."
Meanwhile, the price of lighting up is something survivors pay for every day.
Cindy Dunzan says, "Don't start. don't start if you can help it and if you are smoking. get help to stop. it's not worth chemo. it's not worth radiation. it's hard to go through."
If you'd like to read more about the "Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer," we've posted a link for you under Hot Topics.