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Phyllis D

My sister, Tina, was one of the strongest women I'd ever known. She was more of a mother figure than a sister. She was a fighter all her life and survived all types of cancers. In her early 40's, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and then in her early 60's, she was diagnosed with colon cancer. She survived both of them because of early detection through screening.

However, in October 2013 she was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and just three quick months later, she died. She was 69. It was a huge loss for our family and for me.

Soon thereafter, I registered for the American Lung Association's LUNG FORCE Walk to walk in Tina's memory and to raise funds for lung cancer research. Tina was a former smoker and like many, she quit years before being diagnosed with lung cancer. In fact, she was part of the 60% of newly diagnosed lung cancer patients that have either never smoked or quit years ago.

Every 5 minutes a woman in the U.S. is told she has lung cancer. That means by the time I'm done speaking, another woman will hear this painful diagnosis. That makes lung cancer the #1 cancer killer of women in the US. Lung cancer rates surpassed those of breast cancer in 1987; the lung cancer death rate in women has doubled in the past 35 years; but there's hope.

You see, unlike mammography for breast cancer or colonoscopy for colon cancer, a screening test for lung cancer has not been recommended or federally approved until very recently. We believe screening for lung cancer could save as many as 4,000 to 8,000 lives per year. Criteria are now available to help patients and physicians determine whether someone meets the guidelines for a low-dose computed tomography (CT) scan to screen for lung cancer.

Tina would have met these guidelines if lung cancer screening had existed before she was diagnosed. That's why research funding is so important. With these critical funds, we can insure earlier detection, for all those who haven't yet been diagnosed and we can offer new and more effective treatment options for those who have.

I lend my voice as a LUNG FORCE Hero, because it's going to take a force of women and men to defeat lung cancer. We now know that anyone can get lung cancer; we all deserve a fighting chance. We need to educate the public and the medical community, heightening awareness regarding the new lung cancer screening guidelines and process. Low dose CT scan screenings are so recently approved that many family or primary care physicians may not even know to recommend them to their patients that fit the criteria.

Tina deserved a fighting chance. So do I, so do you, so do our kids. Please join LUNG FORCE and walk, work and fight with me. Together let's raise awareness and research dollars, and get rid of lung cancer once and for all. Thank you.

First published: January 25, 2016

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