Lung cancer therapy can save lives

July 20, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Some groundbreaking research will be presented at the upcoming International Conference on Lung Cancer in San Francisco.

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It includes treatments that can be personally tailored for an individual's type of cancer. A San Francisco opera singer who was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer at the age of 42 is already seeing the benefits of targeted treatment.

Zheng Cao is a guest singer with the San Francisco Opera. She was diagnosed with advanced stage lung cancer just three months ago.

But thanks to new and better treatments for lung cancer, she has a fighting chance. She only discovered she was sick, months after an accident.

"I was performing this world premiere opera, the Bonesetter's Daughter last year and on opening night, I fell on stage," said Cao.

She ignored the pain from the fall, last October, and kept traveling and performing. Finally, the pain was unbearable so her doctor ordered an MRI.

"The MRI showed I had a shadow on my lung," said Cao.

Her doctor then ordered a full body CT scan and the diagnosis was far worse than she could imagine.

"It went into my liver, lymph nodes, bones, edit: lung, bottom of my spine, tumors, tumors, tumors everywhere," she said.

And then she learned she had 24 tumors in her brain.

"I had absolutely no symptom, no idea, that's why it's such a silent killer," said Cao.

Dr. David Jablons is head of Surgery and Research for lung cancer at UCSF. He says lung cancer kills more than a million people around the world a year, and is the leading cancer killer in the U.S.

"It actually kills twice as many women as breast cancer," said Dr. Jablons.

Dr. Jablons supports the efforts by Bonnie and Tony Addario. They founded the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation after Bonnie was diagnosed five years ago. The foundation promotes early screening, but that's controversial among many doctors.

"We do have an effective tool, the spiral CT low dose spiral CT scan is quite accurate and effective at finding subtle nodules that will for the most part be cured with local treatment," said Dr. Jablons.

The Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation is sponsoring a walk/run the same weekend the World Lung Cancer Conference is being held in San Francisco.

"I'm telling all my friends to come, please come join us," said Cao.

The newest technology for lung cancer is not only saving Zheng Cao's life, but also, possibly her career.

"The PET scan shows almost the tumors are shrinking, some of them are gone. It's just like a miracle," said Cao.

The International Conference on Lung Cancer starts at the end of July. That same weekend the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation will hold its first walk and run in Golden Gate Park.

Related Link:
Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation

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