By Pat Carragher - August 04, 2021
Kathy Griffin is recovering from surgery after revealing she was diagnosed with stage 1 lung cancer. The 60-year-old comedian said she had half of her lung removed.
“I’ve got to tell you guys something. I have cancer,” Griffin announced on social media Monday. “Yes, I have lung cancer even though I’ve never smoked!”
Griffin, 60, went on to say that her cancer is contained to her left lung, and her doctors are "very optimistic."
"Hopefully no chemo or radiation after this and I should have normal function with my breathing,” said Griffin. “I should be up and running around as usual in a month or less. It’s been a helluva 4 years, trying to get back to work, making you guys laugh and entertaining you, but I’m gonna be just fine.”
According to Dr. Lary Robinson, a thoracic surgeon at Moffitt Cancer Center, the number of never smokers who get lung cancer is increasing, especially in women. Statistics show 25% of women and 10% of men with lung cancer have never smoked.
“Lung cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer worldwide, with over 2.2 million new cases each year,” said Robinson. “The never smoking women with lung cancer is a very distinct group and unlike Ms. Griffin, most are found with late stage disease. The average age of diagnosis tends to be younger than that of smokers and former smokers.”
According to the American Cancer Society, more than 235,000 Americans will be diagnosed with lung cancer this year and 131,000 will succumb to the disease. Only 17% of lung cancers are diagnosed at a potentially curable and localized stage 1, which carries a 5-year survival of 68-92%. That decreases to 53% with stage 2 disease and 26-36% in stage 3. The 5-year survival rate is less than 6% with stage 4 disease.
Lung cancer is notoriously difficult to detect, mainly because the condition often does not produce noticeable symptoms until it reaches an advanced stage. While lung cancer may still be the deadliest form of cancer, mortality rates have actually declined in recent years according to a report from the American Cancer Society.
Research and Never Smokers
As clinical observations suggest the number of lung cancers diagnosed among never smokers is increasing, it also remains understudied. Robinson is hoping to buck that trend by starting an observational study looking a potential risk factors for cancer in women who are never smokers with lung cancer.
Diet has been a suspected risk factor, with several studies finding a significantly reduced risk among patients who stick to a healthy diet high in fruits and vegetables and lowfat foods while reducing meat consumption.
According to Robinson, a whole food, plant-based diet is known to have anti-inflammatory potential and is associated with favorable bacteria in the intestine. Changing to a plant-based diet is strongly associated with a decreased risk of a variety of cancers including lung, as well as a decreased chance of developing cardiovascular disease, hypertension, stroke and dementia.