New Book by NewYork Weill Cornell Radiologist Offers Hope to Those Who May Face Lung Cancer

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month

Nov 13, 2002


Just in time for Lung Cancer Awareness Month, a new book by a renowned professor of radiology clears up many common misconceptions about lung cancer and offers a strong basis for hope to those who may face the disease. Lung Cancer: Myths, Facts, Choices—and Hope (W.W. Norton & Company; $26.95), by Dr. Claudia Henschke, Chief of the Division of Chest Imaging in the Department of Radiology, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, and Professor of Radiology at Weill Cornell Medical College, should be read by anyone concerned about this most dangerous of cancers.

Lung cancer—which has a five-year survival rate of only 14%—is one of medicine's most dreaded diagnoses. The American Cancer Society estimates that 154,900 Americans will die of lung cancer this year alone: more than the combined total deaths from colon cancer, breast cancer, and prostate cancer.

Why is this cancer even more lethal than others? "Doctors usually find lung cancer too late," says Dr. Henschke. She has developed an ingenious diagnostic protocol, using spiral computerized tomography (CT) scans that can detect early lung cancers while minimizing invasive procedures. Discovering lung cancer at an early stage offers patients greater hope of long-term survival and even cure. Dr. Henschke's groundbreaking findings have made headlines worldwide.

Her new book offers specific practical recommendations, based on her latest research. She explains who needs to be checked and how to get tested. With co-author Peggy McCarthy, a leading patient advocate, Dr. Henschke also provides potentially life-saving advice for those already diagnosed with the disease.

Part science and part the art of coping, Lung Cancer dispels five deadly myths about the disease:

  • Myth #1: Only smokers are at risk. Most people diagnosed with lung cancer are not current smokers, but ex-smokers (some of whom have quit a decade or more ago). Moreover, each year approximately 26,000 Americans who never smoked learn that they have lung cancer.
  • Myth #2: If you smoke, the damage is done, so there's no point in quitting. When smokers stop, the damage that leads to cancer may heal. Research shows that quitting helps those who already have lung cancer respond better to treatment.
  • Myth #3: Women need not worry about lung cancer. Lung cancer is by far the leading cancer killer of women. According to the American Cancer Society, 65,700 U.S. women will die from lung cancer this year, compared to 39,600 from breast cancer.
  • Myth #4: The first sign of lung cancer is coughing up blood. This is a common symptom, but it usually appears later. The first signs are much easier to ignore: fatigue and shortness of breath.
  • Myth #5: If you're diagnosed with lung cancer, the situation is hopeless. Proper treatment at any stage can extend life, improve comfort, or even cure the disease. Yet all too many patients are told "nothing can be done." This is almost never true.

Lung Cancer takes a blame-free approach to smokers and former smokers, countering the guilt many suffer after diagnosis. This book is the most comprehensive, up-to-date, and compassionate guide available to those affected by this disease. It features:

  • Lucid explanations of lung function and cancer.
  • Self-tests to assess risk, and warnings about the sometimes surprising symptoms, like back pain or swollen fingertips.
  • Savvy tips on finding the best doctors and the latest treatments — including surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, as well as complementary therapies and clinical trials involving new therapeutic approaches.
  • Sensitive advice on difficult emotional issues, such as coping with a life-threatening illness and breaking the news to loved ones.
  • Suggestions for remaining healthy, active, and pain-free during and after treatment.
  • Practical recommendations for dealing with insurance companies and HMOs, employers, and finances.

Lung Cancer is illuminated by inspiring quotes from lung cancer survivors, including: a woman whose early lung cancer was found accidentally during medical tests for gastrointestinal problems; a young mother who had never smoked, whose advancing disease was halted by an experimental treatment; a man who was given 30 months to live—and who ran a marathon 31 months later. As Henschke and McCarthy remind readers, it's never too late to hope.

Peggy McCarthy is founder of ALCASE, the Alliance for Lung Cancer, Advocacy, Support, and Education, and president of McCarthy Medical Marketing, Inc, a medical education company in Vancouver, Washington. She and Dr. Henschke are joined by Sarah Wernick, a freelance writer based in Brookline, Massachusetts. The website for the book is