Non-Smoker's Lung Cancer Diagnosis after Mysterious Weight Loss
- A 59-year-old woman in California was diagnosed with lung cancer after an unexplained 18-pound weight loss, despite not changing her diet or exercise routine.
- Over the past decades, the amount of people diagnosed with lung cancer who are non-smokers has increased significantly.
- Symptoms of lung cancer for both smokers and non-smokers include a general feeling of unwellness, chest pain, shortness of breath, wheezing, feeling tired, and coughing.
- When caught early, lung cancer surgeons say they have a good chance to take out cancer and create an effective treatment plan
UCLA Health reports how Wei’s weight continued to drop – first by five pounds, and then later by a whopping thirteen pounds, without any changes to her diet or exercise routine. As her weight continued to decrease, she “started to worry a little,” reports UCLA Health.Read More
Wei’s Lung Cancer DiagnosisDr. Sun called Wei and she recalls him saying, “I wanted to catch you before you leave for work. We saw something on the scan. I think you should reach out to a pulmonologist.” Wei says she began to “panic,” which is a normal response to an early-morning call of that nature from a doctor.
Wei says she was very health conscious and meticulous about cancer screenings; Wei was diligent about getting her mammograms to screen for breast cancer and pap smears to screen for cervical cancer. Her cholesterol levels and blood pressure were also in the health range, and she never smoked.
When Wei was diagnosed with lung cancer, she was initially angry and confused. She tells UCLA Health, “At first, I was really quite angry. I did everything I was supposed to do. I always get my checkups.”
After a cancer diagnosis, your doctor may want you to undergo genetic and molecular testing in order to gain more information about the cancer, which can inform the treatment path.
According to an article published by the National Library of Medicine, molecular testing may lead to targeted therapy. The article states, “The important reason for molecular testing of lung cancers is to select patients who may benefit from targeted therapies.”
The author continues to say that “patients with lung cancer can get benefits from molecular testing of their tumors regardless of stage. For example, molecular testing can provide accurate information on staging (in case of multiple tumors), prognostic stratification, and prompt treatment in case of recurrence.”
Non-Smokers & Lung Cancer
Lung cancer is the second most common type of cancer and it can develop in both smokers and non-smokers, though smokers have an increased risk.
Over the past decades, the amount of people diagnosed with lung cancer who are non-smokers has increased significantly.
According to the CDC, in the U.S., approximately 10% to 20% of lung cancers – or 20,000 to 40,000 lung cancers each year – occur in people who never smoked or smoked fewer than 100 cigarettes in their entire life.
Surgery is a common treatment path for lung cancer, especially early-stage lung cancer.
The CDC says researchers believe secondhand smoke contributes to about 7,300, and radon contributes to about 2,900 of these lung cancers.
Symptoms of lung cancer for both smokers and non-smokers include a general feeling of unwellness, chest pain, shortness of breath, wheezing, feeling tired, and coughing.
Lung Cancer in Non-Smokers
Screening for Lung Cancer
More men and women die of lung cancer than of colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined. Screening is a way to effectively catch the disease early and treat it earlier. Typically lung cancer affects people above the age of 65, but a small number of people are diagnosed at a younger age, like Wei.
Many lung cancers are found accidentally. However, screening can help doctors diagnose lung cancers at earlier stages of the disease when successful treatment is more likely. Early-stage lung cancers that are removed with surgery may even be curable. But more often, lung cancer diagnoses come after the disease has already spread to other parts of the body, making it more difficult to treat.
“In about 70 to 80 percent of patients who are diagnosed with lung cancer, unfortunately, the cancer has spread outside of the lung and is not suitable for surgery,” Dr. Patrick Forde, a Thoracic Oncologist at Johns Hopkins, tells SurvivorNet in an earlier interview.
But screening methods such as the low-dose computed tomography (CT) scan can save lives – if those who are at risk participate. This test uses a very small amount of radiation to create highly detailed pictures of your lungs to reveal cancer long before initial symptoms.