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"I was a young nonsmoker…and I got lung cancer"

Maria was only 52 when she developed a cough that didn’t go away. She was a non-smoker and led a healthy lifestyle, even though she always felt tired. When she started to lose weight without trying, she went to see her doctor. The doctor recommended a HeartLung™ scan, which showed Maria had advanced lung cancer. Schedule your HeartLung™ scan today.

Maria* never smoked. In fact, no one in her family had ever smoked. At age 52, Maria felt healthy. She ate well and exercised regularly. She enjoyed her work as a hair stylist and had just bought a small salon, finally achieving her dream of owning her own business.

When she started to develop a cough, Maria didn’t think much of it. She had allergies to pollen and mold, so she was used to coughing and sneezing at various times during the year. Now she was also cleaning and painting her new workplace, so she reasoned that she was probably sensitive to the smells of the chemicals necessary for the renovation.

Maria’s new salon was a success. She happily put in long hours, even though she frequently felt very tired. It would all be worth it when she could afford to take her family on vacation. She was also losing weight, but with the daily demands, she really didn’t have much of an appetite.

Six months later, Maria was still coughing. Sometimes it looked bloody. She began to wonder if the salon had been a good idea; the stress seemed to be causing her chest and back to hurt all the time.1 And her voice was hoarse from talking all day long.

It was Maria’s daughter who finally insisted that Maria see a doctor. Her daughter was getting married soon and had become concerned with Maria’s symptoms. “Mom, you don’t look well. You’re too thin and that cough keeps getting worse. I want you to be healthy for my wedding.” Maria agreed to make an appointment.

After examining Maria, her doctor seemed concerned and sent her for a low-dose CT scan of the chest by HeartLung™. Maria and her family were devastated to learn that Maria had lung cancer. Because it wasn’t found early enough, it had already spread to her bones.

She immediately began treatment with radiation and chemotherapy, but the cancer was too advanced. Marie died within a year. She was able to see her daughter get married but didn’t live long enough for the special vacation with her family.

While most lung cancer is directly related to smoking, it is mysteriously on the rise among nonsmokers. About 10-20% of lung cancers in the U.S. happen to nonsmokers. (A nonsmoker is someone who never smoked or has smoked fewer than 100 cigarettes in their life.)

Scientists know that second-hand smoke causes about 7,300 deaths a year; just inhaling the smoke of cigarettes, cigars, and pipes is dangerous. Exposure to radon, a radioactive gas that is present in the soil and atmosphere, causes nearly 3,000 deaths every year.

Nonsmoking women between the ages of 40 and 79 seem to be at a much higher risk than men to develop lung cancer. The exact reason isn’t known. Some occupations seem to be a risk factor; Maria’s job as a hair stylist required her to be around chemicals. It’s possible that the female hormone, estrogen, also plays a role.

Current medical guidelines do not recommend lung cancer screening for nonsmokers of any age. If you have concerns or wish to have a low-dose chest CT scan that will give you details about your lungs and nine other important areas in your body, schedule a HeartLung™ scan today at one of our nearby testing centers.

*Fictitious name



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