Just moments before a live report for the evening news, ABC 7's Greta Kreuz got the call from her doctor.
"He said to me, 'You have lung cancer.' I said, 'What?! I've never even smoked a day in my life!'," Greta says.
But, on the cat-scan there was a half-inch tumor on her left lung.
Lung cancer kills more Americans than Colorectal cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer and pancreatic cancer combined. This year, an estimated 160,340 Americans will die from the disease, making lung cancer the leading cause of death in America after heart disease.
And the five year survival rate is about 15 percent, as the symptoms usually don't show up until it's too late. Some of those symptoms include:
--shortness of breath
--coughing up blood
--chest, shoulder, back or arm pain
Laurie Fenton Ambrose, president of the Lung Cancer Alliance, says,
"We are seeing more, and particularly women, being diagnosed with lung cancer, who have never smoked."
The Lung Cancer Alliance says 80 percent of new lung cancer patients either quit smoking years ago or have ever smoked at all.
Greta wondered what caused her cancer. Her parents smoked, like so many in the 50s and 60s. So, was it second-hand smoke?
Or maybe genetics? Her sister died of the disease, but she had also been a smoker.
Other possible risk factors for lung cancer are: smoking (including cigarettes, cigars and pipes), radon and asbestos exposure, lung cancer in immediate family (regardless of whether they smoked), military/veterans exposed to Agent Orange and certain other chemicals, those with respiratory diseases; e.g., emphysema, COPD and tuberculosis and hormone replacement therapy.
"I wish I could tell you we had an answer. We don't, because this is a disease that has been so stigmatized...and so underfunded," Ambrose explains.
Last month, Greta underwent surgery at George Washington University Hospital. At stage 1, the cancer had not spread.
Surgeons removed Greta's lower left lobe as a precaution.
Greta says her lung capacity is almost back to normal. And five weeks after surgery, she's back at work. and definitely one of the lucky ones.
"You probably have an 80 percent, if not a little bit higher, chance of being cured from this," thoracic surgeon Dr, Marc Margolis says to Greta.
"That's pretty good! Very good. I like those odds!," she responds.
Greta didn't have to undergo any chemo or radiation, but she must have frequent C-T scans for the next five years.
LUNG CANCER ALLIANCE (LCA)
Lung Cancer Information Line: 1-800-298-2436 (9:00am to 5pm est)
WHERE TO GO FOR LUNG CANCER SCREENING
AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY
NATIONAL LUNG CANCER PARTNERSHIP
NATIONAL CANCER INSTITUTE
(U.S. Department of Health and Human Services/ National Institutes of Health)
LOW-DOSE SPIRAL CT SCAN STUDY