Limbaugh Death, Dole Diagnosis Put Lung Cancer in Spotlight

By Pat Carragher - February 18, 2021

Rush Limbaugh, host of the nationally syndicated “The Rush Limbaugh Show,” died on Wednesday following a year-long battle with lung cancer at the age of 70. A day later, former Kansas senator and Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole announced his stage 4 diagnosis of the same disease.

Limbaugh’s wife, Kathryn, shared the news on his radio show.

“I, like you, very much wish Rush was behind this golden microphone now, welcoming you to another exceptional three hours of broadcasting,” Kathryn Limbaugh said. “It is with profound sadness I must share with you directly that our beloved Rush, my wonderful husband, passed away this morning due to complications from lung cancer.”


Dole, 97, released a statement Thursday morning.

“Recently, I was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. My first treatment will begin on Monday,” Dole said. “While I certainly have some hurdles ahead, I also know that I join millions of Americans who face significant health challenges of their own.”

According to the American Cancer Society, lung cancer is by far the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women, making up almost 25% of all cancer deaths. Each year, more people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast and prostate cancers combined.

“Our dedicated team strives daily to decrease the lung cancer burden for all,” said Dr. Jhanelle Gray, chair of the Department of Thoracic Oncology at Moffitt Cancer Center. “We aim to improve lung cancer screening and education through our Lung and Thoracic Tumor Education (LATTE) Program while providing cutting edge research and treatment approaches to eradicate the disease.”

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"We aim to improve lung cancer screening and education through our Lung and Thoracic Tumor Education (LATTE) Program while providing cutting edge research and treatment approaches to eradicate the disease."

- Dr. Jhanelle Gray

In 2021, an estimated 235,760 new cases of lung cancer will be diagnosed in the United States and 131,880 people are likely to die from the disease according to the American Lung Association.

Lung cancer can be difficult to detect, mainly because the condition often does not produce noticeable symptoms until it reaches an advanced stage. Additionally, some indicators such as persistent coughing or vocal hoarseness may be ignored simply since they are so commonplace. But, an early diagnosis – at a stage when more treatment options are generally available – is essential to achieving the best possible outcome.

Following recent recommendations by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, Moffitt has lowered the age requirement for a lung cancer screening from 55 to 50, potentially doubling the number of patients eligible for a low-dose CT scan. These guidelines had previously been implemented by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network.

“It remains imperative to seek a timely evaluation for such symptoms and also highlights the importance of lung cancer screening with a low-dose Chest CT scan before symptoms start,” said Gray. “We strive to achieve earlier detection, improved treatment, and groundbreaking research to ensure that our loved ones can live their full lives.”

Doctors also recommend lowering the number of years a person has smoked a pack a day, on average, from 30 to 20.

The new guidelines have not been finalized by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. If the guidelines are approved, insurance carriers would be mandated by law to adjust coverage according to the new recommendations.

“Although lung cancer death rates have declined, there is still much more work to be done,” said Gray. “Together, we can improve the lung cancer burden and we are dedicated to vastly improving lung cancer outcomes in fulfillment of Moffitt’s mission to prevent and cure cancer.”

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