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One Woman's Story

Getting Lung Cancer When You’ve Never Smoked:

It started with a familiar twinge on her lower left side, reminiscent of the ovarian cysts she had experienced throughout her life.

Heidi’s life changed forever at the age of 55.

Given her age and medical history, she decided to make an appointment with a gynecologist.

An ultrasound at that very first appointment revealed a likely benign cyst on her left ovary, but her doctor ordered an additional scan to be sure.

A PET* scan and biopsy later showed she had a mass in the upper left lobe of her lung and enlarged lymph nodes between her chest and both lungs.

She was diagnosed with Stage IIIA non-small cell lung cancer.

*Positron emission tomography

Heidi is not alone.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the U.S., but many people don’t consider getting evaluated if they are
a non-smoker.

For Heidi, this news came seemingly out of nowhere. She was especially shocked, as she had never smoked.

The prognosis after her
initial diagnosis appeared grim.

As cancerous cells grow they can spread to other parts of the body, so she was told to immediately make a follow-up MRI* to see if the cancer had spread to her brain.

The morning after her MRI*, Heidi received good news – she did not have any metastases (secondary growths) in her brain.

*Magnetic resonance imaging

The majority of tumors found in people with Stage III lung cancer are determined to be unresectable (cannot be removed with surgery).

Heidi’s oncologist informed her that she may be a good candidate for chemoradiation therapy followed by immunotherapy.

Knowing the initial course of treatment made her feel a little more in control.

Immunotherapy may be a treatment option for patients after chemoradiation therapy is complete and their disease does not progress.

As chemoradiation therapy started, Heidi's support system became especially important to her.

A month later, there was good news.

Her oncologist informed Heidi that her tumor was responding well to chemoradiation therapy.

After about another month, Heidi finished chemoradiation therapy.

It was time to start thinking about
the upcoming immunotherapy. With her family, she made a plan.

Her wish list was simple.

Heidi wanted to spend time with her three kids, her husband and the people she cared about the most. And that meant traveling.

She worked with her doctor and care team to prepare for travel.

Like many

before her diagnosis, Heidi believed lung cancer was a “smoker’s disease,” and never thought to get evaluated for lung cancer.

According to the CDC,

about 10-20% of lung cancer happens in people who have smoked fewer than 100 cigarettes in their lifetime – including people who have never smoked at all.

The more Heidi has learned about the statistics, the more she has felt the need to speak up.

Why One Woman is Speaking Up About Her Journey With Lung Cancer

Read the full story. Sponsored by AstraZeneca.