ABC anchorman Peter Jennings' tragic death due to lung cancer, has caused many to seek more information about the disease, its causes and the fight against it. MSNBC’s Dara Brown spoke to Dr. Derek Raghaven, chairmen of the Taussig Cancer Center at the Cleveland Clinic, about lung cancer and its future.
To see an excerpt of their interview, click the launch button on the right.
DARA BROWN, MSNBC ANCHOR: We do know that lung cancer is the top killer for men and women. Why are we not making more advancements in its treatment?
DR. DEREK RAGHAVEN, CLEVELAND CLINIC: I think we are making advances. I think progress is always steady and the problem here is that this is a very difficult tumor to treat. People forget that cigarette smoke is just packed full of bad things and a number of agents within cigarette smoke are what we in medicine call carcinogens- cancer causing compounds.
What they do is mutate and alter the cells in such a fashion that they’re much more resistant to treatment. These days we’re getting better at diagnosing lung cancer earlier and there’s been some improvements in treatment. But at the end of the day the bottom line is don’t smoke in the first place. It’s an avoidable cancer as long as you don’t hang around with cigarette smokers.
BROWN: Mr. Jennings said he had smoked and quit for twenty years and then started again after September 11. Does that do anything to bring a cancer back if its possibly in remission of some sorts?
RAGHAVEN: I think that the reality is people who stop smoking and are able to really discontinue permanently reduce their chance of getting cancer by more than fifty percent. 9/11 has many tragic consequences and this is just one of them. Mr. Jennings said that he started smoking again at the time and that’s really too bad. I think if you stopped smoking, it doesn’t give you guaranteed protections but it really cuts down the odds of getting cancer.
At the end of the day, there’s a resurgence of kids smoking on college campuses. The cigarette companies are targeting the young. It’s outrageous that they’re allowed to do it. I hope what comes out of Peter Jennings’ tragic death is that people recognize him as someone who came into their living room and they understand that people, like Peter Jennings, can be killed by smoking and tobacco companies and that they therefore make a decision not to smoke.
There’s nothing cool about smoking. I hope that we’re able to rid from the community. The good news is that men are starting to pay heed and we know that the campaigns directed against men in the 1980s are now having a real impact. What’s happening is that men are smoking less and getting less lung cancer. Unfortunately, women have not heeded the call that well.
So, what I’m hoping is that people out there in businesses and medical facilities will follow the lead of the Cleveland Clinic and go smoke free. July 4, 2005 was our "Independence from Smoking" day and I think we all feel good about it. We have a number of workers who have quit smoking and continue to stay clean. That gives them the best chance of not getting any of the conditions that smoking causes.
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