Kathy Griffin Has Stage 1 Lung Cancer
- Comedian Kathy Griffin, 60, announced she has lung cancer; she has never smoked.
- “Kathy is now in recovery and resting. Doctors say the procedure was normal without any surprises,” said a rep after she had half her lung removed on Monday
- Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer; former and current smokers should screen for this disease.
“Kathy is now in recovery and resting. Doctors say the procedure was normal without any surprises,” a rep for the comedian told Survivor Net.Read More
Griffin shared the news of her diagnosis on Twitter and Instagram. She writes, “I’ve got to tell you guys something. I have cancer. I’m about to go into surgery to have half of my left lung removed. Yes, I have lung cancer even though I’ve never smoked! The doctors are very optimistic as it is stage one and contained to my left lung. Hopefully. No chemo or radiation after this and I should have normal function with my breathing….”
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Griffin continues, “I should be up and running around as usual in a month or less. It’s been a helluva 4 years, trying to get back to work, making you guys laugh and entertaining you, but I’m gonna be just fine. Of course I am fully vaccinated for Covid. The consequences for being unvaccinated would have been even more serious. Please stay up to date on your medical check ups. It’ll save your life. XXOO, KG.”
Support for Griffin is rolling in, as stars like Community‘s Yvette Nicole Brown share words of encouragement. Brown writes on Instagram, “Praying for you, Kathy!” And Laverne Cox says, “Sending healing energy your way.” Fellow stand-up comic Nikki Glasser tells her, “We love you Kathy! Thank you for being so honest and strong. You are an example to us all.”
Understanding Lung Cancer
There are two main types of lung cancer. And the type of lung cancer a person has will inform their treatment path, as well as the predicted progression of the cancer itself. The two types of lung cancer are:
- Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is the most common type and makes up about 85% of cases
- Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is less common, but it tends to grow faster than NSCLC and is treated very differently
Lung cancer is a serious cancer, but there is good news on the lung cancer front. Fewer people annually are getting diagnosed with this disease because of a decline in smoking rates. Additionally, advancements in treatment options exist, too, which means better prognoses for some patients.
New treatments, such as immunotherapy and targeted agents, are dramatically improving the prognosis and quality of life for people diagnosed with this disease.
Understanding Griffin’s Treatment Plan
Thankfully, because her cancer is stage 1, Griffin has broader treatment options. As she explains, she’s going to have surgery to have part of her left lung removed, because the cancer is contained to that area and has not yet spread.
As Griffin mentioned, chemo and radiation are also treatment options for lung cancer. At this stage in her treatment path, based on what she’s shared, it appears that neither of those treatment options need to be considered yet. Surgery for lung cancer is an option for people like Griffin whose cancer is contained. At later stage lung cancer (i.e. stage 4), surgery is often not an option because the cancer has metastasized, or spread.
In an earlier interview, Dr. Joseph Friedberg, the head of the Division of Thoracic Surgery at University of Maryland School of Medicine, explained the preparation process for lung cancer surgery previously to SurvivorNet. He says, “At this point, CAT scan, the PET scan, the MRI, and we’ve biopsied these lymph nodes through one of two different techniques. We say this is stage one. And then if we’re thinking about surgery simultaneously with the tests that we’re getting to “stage” the cancer, we’re also going to be getting a risk assessment.”
“So what is your nutritional status? We’ll get your heart checked out,” says Dr. Friedberg. “We’ll look at the carotid arteries, which are the blood vessels that supply blood to your brain. Because in addition to smoking, which is the most common cause of lung cancer causing cancers, it also causes heart disease and other arterial diseases.”
Screening for Lung Cancer
According to current recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force released this spring, people at a high risk of lung cancer (i.e. current and former smokers) should receive free annual screenings with a low-dose CT scan starting at age 50, whether or not they have symptoms of the disease.
Lung cancer symptoms include:
- A persistent cough that doesn’t go away after 2 or 3 weeks.
- A cough that gets worse.
- Recurring chest infections.
- Coughing up blood.
- Pain when breathing or coughing.
Griffin notes she’s never smoked; as many know, smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer. If you’re a smoker – or if you’ve been one in the past – it’s highly advisable to screen for lung cancer, because it could save your life.
Dr. Patrick Forde, a thoracic oncologist at Johns Hopkins Medicine, says in a previous interview that screening can be lifesaving. He says, “Over the last few years, there’s been a number of studies looking at using low dose CT scans of the chest in patients who have a history of smoking to try and pick up lung cancers in earlier stage.”
“About 70% to 80% of patients who are diagnosed with lung cancer, unfortunately, the cancer has spread outside of the lung and is not suitable for surgery,” says Dr. Forde. “And there have been a number of studies, most recently, one in the Netherlands, which looked at doing CT scans for patients who are over the age of 55 and had a significant smoking history for many years and then monitoring them on a regular basis with a low dose CT of the chest.”
He continues, “And they were able to show a reduction in the numbers of lung cancers which had spread outside of the chest.”