Lung cancer, which usually affects men and women over the age of 50, is the fifth most common cancer in Ireland, with nearly 2,700 people diagnosed each year. This is Lung Cancer Awareness Day, urging people to seek advice if they have any concerns, even if the last thing they expect is cancer.
Eirdre Staunton can confirm this. An avid runner, she was fit and healthy and when she began to experience shortness of breath she attributed it to asthma, which she had had since childhood. But when there were no signs of improvement, she visited her GP, who referred her for tests.
“I would have described myself as healthy, fit and active as I loved running and mountaineering,” she says.
“I’ve had asthma since I was a teenager, which never gave me any problems, but in August 2020 I noticed that I needed to take my inhaler more often and my running speed wasn’t as good as usual. I also noticed that after the Swimming felt terrible.
“I have attributed my symptoms to old age and perimenopause, but my friend urged me to see my doctor. I left this until February 2021 and while I was having blood drawn at the GP I was told to start vitamin D supplements and was referred to a respiratory doctor. I assumed it was my asthma. However, on March 19, I went to my appointment expecting to be home in time to do a little mountain climb with the family – but there was a complete turnaround.”
The 52-year-old, who is married to Chris and has three children, was referred to the emergency room where she underwent a battery of tests before being told she had lung cancer.
“To say I was shocked would be an understatement as there is no history of lung cancer in my family,” she says. “I am a non-smoker and had climbed a mountain two days before. It took me months to come to terms with the diagnosis and my life changed instantly. The days were now filled with worry, fatigue and shortness of breath as I was referred to the Galway Rapid Pulmonary Clinic where I underwent biopsies.
“A few weeks later, the results came in and I was told that I have an EGFR mutation that should respond to targeted therapy. This started in May 2021 and has been going on ever since so I’ll take it as long as it works and if I stop responding we’ll move on to plan B.”
Though there’s no immediate cure, Deirdre is “living well with cancer” — something, she says, might not have been possible a decade ago. She would encourage others to seek advice as soon as they notice anything unusual, as early detection can make all the difference to successful outcomes. “I have been told that my cancer cannot be cured but is being controlled with daily medication,” she says. “My advice to anyone who may have respiratory symptoms and not just a cough is simple. Don’t ignore your body and diagnose yourself.”
While non-smokers get lung cancer, smoking causes nine out of ten cases, and the risk increases the longer you smoke.
https://www.independent.ie/life/health-wellbeing/lung-cancer-dont-ignore-your-body-early-detection-can-make-all-the-difference-42114740.html Lung cancer: “Don’t ignore your body, early detection can make all the difference”