Published Jun 13, 2022
Comedian, actress and lung cancer survivor Kathy Griffin, 61, of Oak Park, Ill., is returning to liberal activism after getting her voice back following complications from her post-cancer operation.
“How loud do the screams need to be?” a photo of a sign captioned “#marchforourlives” read; Griffin posted the photo to Instagram in reference to the number of mass shootings that have occurred across the United States in the last few weeks.
(The most recent shooting to capture national attention was a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, that left 21 people dead — 19 students and two teachers.)
She’s also been posting about the Jan. 6 Committee hearings going on in Washington, D.C. The House of Representatives committee is investigating the insurrection of the U.S. Capitol building that happened on Jan. 6, 2021. Supporters of former President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol as Congress was convening to certify then-President-Elect Joe Biden’s electoral votes.
“Will you watch???” Giffin posted to Instagram alongside a photo of dates and times that hearings would be happening. “I’m PUMPED,” she added.
The world learned of Kathy Griffin’s stage 1 lung cancer diagnosis via social media on Aug. 2 of last year.
Shortly after announcing the news, she underwent surgery to have half of her left lung removed, as the cancer seemed to be contained there. The cancer was cut away during the procedure, but the surgery caused complications such as losing her voice.
“There (were) a couple of complications, and one of them was probably because of the intubation tube, my vocal cord on the left was damaged,” Griffin told Kara Swisher, host of The New York Times podcast “Sway,” during an interview in March. “So, I’m trying to come back from that so I can work again and do stand-up again. And it’s very odd. I mean, for me of all people, to barely have a voice and to sound whispery and mild can be off-putting.”
“I think that I sound obviously like Marilyn Monroe meets Joan Rivers,” the comedian joked, again. “And that would be probably my perfect woman, if I could be her. Why not?”
While smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer, Griffin has no history of smoking, But, she was still diagnosed with lung cancer, highlighting the fact that non-smokers can still develop this type of cancer, too.
Declining smoking rates have led to an improved outlook for lung cancer since cigarette smoking is the number one risk factor for the disease. In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention reports that cigarette smoking is linked to about 80% to 90% of lung cancer deaths, and people who smoke cigarettes are 15 to 30 times more likely to get lung cancer or die from lung cancer than people who don’t smoke.
It’s important to remember, however, that even people like Kathy Griffin who’ve never smoked before can still get lung cancer. The CDC reports that in the United States, about 10% to 20% of lung cancers, or 20,000 to 40,000 lung cancers each year, happen in people who’ve never smoked.
“Some lung cancers are from unknown exposure to air pollution, radon or asbestos,” Dr. Raja Flores, system chair of thoracic surgery at Mount Sinai, previously told SurvivorNet. “We also see more never-smokers with lung cancer who have a family history of it.”
Radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer. It’s responsible for anywhere from 3% to 16% of cancer cases depending on the levels present in a given area, according to the World Health Organization, but smokers are still 25 times more at risk from radon than non-smokers.
Another possibility for the cause of lung cancer in a non-smoker can be second-hand smoke. The American Cancer Society estimates that about 7,000 adults die of lung cancer annually from breathing secondhand smoke.
Air pollution, family history, HIV or AIDs can also all impact the chances of a non-smoker getting lung cancer. No matter what, it’s important to not rule out the disease just because you don’t smoke.
There are two main types of lung cancer. The type a person has will chart the course for their treatment plan, as well as the cancer’s predicted progression. In the case of Kathy Griffin, although she never smoked, she was diagnosed with stage 1 cancer, and because it was confined to her left lung, she was able to have half of it removed.
Griffin didn’t share what type of lung cancer she has. The two main types of lung cancer are non-small cell lung cancer, which is the most common and makes up about 85% of cases, and then there’s small cell lung cancer, which is less common, but tends to grow faster than non-small cell, and it’s treated very differently.
And as previously stated, lung cancer has been directly linked to cigarette smoking and is the number one risk factor for developing this type of cancer.
“If you’re smoking, don’t smoke,” Dr. Joseph Friedberg, head of thoracic surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, previously told SurvivorNet. “You never return down all the way to the (level of) the person who never smoked as far as your risk of lung cancer goes, but it goes down with time.”
But that doesn’t mean you can’t develop lung cancer if you don’t smoke cigarettes, like Griffin. In fact, 20% of people who die from lung cancer in the U.S. each year have never smoked or have never used any other form of tobacco.
We say that anyone with lungs can get lung cancer, even if you’ve never smoked.