Experts see increase in nonsmoking related lung cancer

Lung cancer is typically associated with smoking but up to 40,000 cases year involved people who never inhaled a tobacco product.

SOUTH PALM BEACH, Fla. – Lung cancer is typically associated with smoking but up to 40,000 cases year involved people who never inhaled a tobacco product.

Sixty four year old Stacy Schmid is one of those people who did everything right.

She exercises, eats a healthy diet and has never had a major illness.

“I have a lot of energy, I always did,” Schmid said.

Then while training for a charity run a few months ago, she started to suffer from severe shortness of breath.

“I had a lingering cough for several months before that. I just attributed it to the fact that we have 5 grandkids and someone always has a cold. Allergies were really high so I just kept dismissing it,” Schmid said.

She was stunned when a trip to the doctor revealed she had Stage 4 diffuse lung cancer.

“It did blow me away, it was so shocking to me,” Schmid said.

Dr. Mihir Naik, a radiation oncologist with Cleveland Clinic Weston said lung cancer in non-smokers often starts in the outer areas of the lung but can go undetected until it’s advanced.

“There’s a role for screening but it’s been in a heavy smoking population, not in a nonsmoking population and it’s in the nonsmoking population where we’re seeing an increase in the incidence of lung cancer,” he said.

Naik said an estimated 20 percent of women and 10 percent of men who have no prior smoking history develop lung cancer.

“The biggest difference is that we’re seeing different genetic drivers and different genetic alterations in nonsmoking that develop lung cancers. There are positives to that which means we have better treatments and started therapies for nonsmokers,” Naik said.

Schmid remains optimistic in her fight against the cancer.

She’s drawing support from her family, her physicians and her faith.

“So the three of us are working together to try to battle and beat this,” she said.

According to the National Cancer Institute, lung cancer is the second most common form of the disease and the leading cause of cancer death.


About the Authors:

Kristi Krueger has built a solid reputation as an award-winning medical reporter and effervescent anchor. She joined Local 10 in August 1993. After many years co-anchoring the 6 p.m. and 11 p.m., Kristi now co-anchors the noon newscasts, giving her more time in the evening with her family.

Veteran journalist Kathleen Corso is the special projects producer for Local 10 News.