Are women at greater risk for lung cancer?

A Woman’s Disease – Lung Cancer

She never smoked a cigarette in her life, but just two days after ABC anchorman Peter Jennings died of lung cancer, Dana Reeves – the widow of Christopher Reeves – announced that she’d been diagnosed with lung cancer.

I was very happy to hear last week that Ms. Reeves’ has been responding well to treatment and is “feeling great.”

This is encouraging news, and I hope we’ll hear this same sort of progress report from Ms. Reeves for years to come. But many non-smoking women won’t be so fortunate, partly because lung cancer is thought of as a disease that mostly afflicts men who smoke, such as Mr. Jennings.

In fact, according to a USA Today article: “Lung cancer causes more deaths among women than breast, uterine and ovarian cancers combined.”

That chilling quote is from an interview with Jyoti Patel, M.D., who is a specialist in women’s lung cancer. Dr. Patel also notes that among women who have never smoked, the risk of developing lung cancer is higher than that of non-smoking men.

Dr. Patel suggests that all women should be aware of these lung cancer warning signs:

  • A cough that changes character (such as severity or frequency)
  • Awakened at night by coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Blood in sputum

Women take heed: This is a dangerous cancer that shouldn’t be dismissed as a man’s disease or a smoker’s disease.

“Lung Cancer: A Woman’s Disease” Janice Billingsley, HealthDay, 1/14/05,