Many people found it hard to believe when Dana Reeve, the wife of Superman star Christopher Reeve, died from lung cancer this week. She was in her 40's and never smoked. One Tulsa woman believes it.
As News on 6 reporter Steve Berg explains, she's facing the very same thing.
Wanza Samara is young, was in good health, and had even just run a road race, when she went to the doctor with a pain that she thought was kidney stones. "Found out it was lung cancer, never smoked, hard diagnosis. It was Stage 4 when they found it." She and her family were stunned by what the doctor was telling her. "His diagnosis was grim, they're all grim. So here I am 36, two great kids, great husband and battling."
Wanza is even younger than Dana Reeve; two of a rapidly growing number of younger women with lung cancer says Dr. Daniel Nader at Cancer Treatment Centers of America. â€œIn about 1995, the incidence of lung cancer became greater than breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and other types of cancer combined."
What's really baffling though is that the vast majority of non-smokers who get lung cancer are women. And doctors don't know why. "Are we just finding this more because we have better detection techniques? We're able to diagnose cancer better than we were 15 or 20 years ago or is truly the incidence rising."
Wanza Samara: â€œI think it's shocking a lot of people, relatively new in the past few years." If nothing else, Wanza wants to raise awareness, give patients like her a bigger voice and maybe get better funding for a cure.
Meanwhile, if they can't figure out why it happens, she hopes the reverse will be true too. "There's that small chance of people who get better and they don't have a reason why. I thought I'm going to be that small chance of someone who gets better and they don't know why."
Both Wanza and Doctor Nader would like to see the American Cancer Society push for earlier, more thorough screening for lung cancer, like cat-scans and chest x-rays.