PLAINS TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — When it comes to cancers, lung cancer is among the deadliest. It claims more lives each year than colon, prostate and breast cancers combined. But lung cancer doesn’t have to be a death sentence. New targeted therapies and treatments are helping more and more lung cancer patients live longer and better lives. A Luzerne County woman is living proof of that.
“There are good days and bad days. Mostly good days.” Tuesday was a good day for 71-year-old Barbara Morgan. The lung cancer patient from Hanover Township was at Geisinger Wyoming Valley’s Henry Cancer Center receiving a mild chemotherapy treatment. “I have a tumor which could not be removed.”
Diagnosed in 2011, Barbara endured the rigors of radiation and heavy chemotherapy the first couple of years to shrink her tumor. Now, she only needs low chemo maintenance every few weeks. “The cancer hasn’t spread anywhere. Anywhere,” she said adding “I’m really a fortunate person.”
Like most lung cancer patients, Barbara was a smoker… a habit she started as a teenager that left her hooked for decades. “I smoked. All my friends smoked. It was the thing.” So did her father and brother who both died of lung cancer. Geisinger Pulmonologist Ajay Shetty, MD said, “80 to 90 percent of lung cancers occur in cigarette smokers or people who smoked cigarettes in the past.”
Dr. Shetty says one lesson we can take from Barbara’s case is because there was lung cancer history in her family, that presents a clear and present risk. Combining that genetic pre-disposition with smoking dramatically increases the chance of lung cancer.
Vaping is not believed to be linked to lung cancer but for Dr. Shetty, it raises other concerns. “There may be other things in that vapor that may be harmful to your heart and other organs.” Barbara has advice for smokers and vapers. “You don’t have to do that. You don’t need that. There’s other things in life.” Both Barbara and Dr. Shetty agree: If you smoke, quit and if you don’t smoke, don’t ever start.