Virginia woman fights lung cancer and smoking stigma that surrounds it

Our Peggy Fox has the story of how the misconceptions about lung cancer may be hurting the fight to cure it.

MCLEAN, VA (WUSA9) - Lung cancer kills more people than any other cancer. 

But you don’t smoke. Never have. So you’re all good, right?

Well, sorry to give you one more thing to worry about, but many lung cancer victims never smoked a single cigarette. 

A McLean, Va. woman is fighting that misconception about lung cancer which may be hurting the fight to cure it.

"I count myself very fortunate. I am healthy, except that I have stage four lung cancer," said Karen Loss, 58, who has been writing and blogging about her battle with lung cancer since she was diagnosed five years ago.   

"The number one question for me and for everyone with lung cancer is, do you smoke or did you smoke? Or, how much did you smoke?  Or why did you smoke? Anything about smoking. I never smoked. I am a life-long non-smoker," said Loss.  

RELATED: How to quit smoking to save your life

She has no idea how she got the disease. But she is one of the 30 percent of women diagnosed with lung cancer, who never smoked. One of 16 Americans will be diagnosed with lung cancer in their lifetime. 

"If you don't get a diagnosed of lung cancer yourself, you will know someone who does. If you have lungs, you're at risk for lung cancer," said Loss. 

Lung cancer is the number one cancer killer. It kills more people than breast, colon and prostate cancer combined. 

But the stigma persists.   

"So many people, even to this day, think, you brought it on yourself. I don't feel sorry for you, therefore, I'm a non-smoker, so I don't have to worry about it. And, you smoked, so I don't care," said Loss. 

That stigma affect fundraising and fundraising affects research dollars per patients death, that's how they measure it. 

For breast cancer its $24, 000. Prostrate cancer is  $14,000. Colon is $7,000. And lung cancer, which strikes the most people and kills the most poeple, is a paltry $2,300. 

That disparity is more than frustrating to Karen Loss.

 "Doggone it. You know it's about time the American public knows that lung cancer kills more than any other cancer out there. Four hundred and thirty-three people a day every day, die of  lung cancer. That's like a jumbo jet crash every single day killing everyone aboard. Do you think that would get coverage? I do. Lung cancer. We hear crickets," she said. 

Loss plans to share that message when she speaks at the grassroots Life and Breath Rally for Lung Cancer on the west front lawn of the U.S. Capitol on Thursday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.   

© 2017 WUSA-TV


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