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BREATHE Lung Cancer Conference, Nov. 30, Offers Medical and Patient Education, Advocacy and Survivor's Perspective

DETROIT, Nov. 19 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with lung cancer, or if you're a physician or medical personnel working with lung cancer patients, you won't want to miss the BREATHE 2007 Lung Cancer Medical and Advocacy Conference. The conference, co-presented by the American Lung Association of Michigan and the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute, will be held Friday, Nov. 30, at the Ritz-Carlton Dearborn. Medical and advocacy experts will present information and a survival panel will speak about their experience with lung cancer. The keynote speaker will be Deborah Morosini, MD, sister of the late Dana Reeve.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of all cancer deaths in the United States, more than breast, prostate and colon cancer combined. The estimated new cases of lung cancer in the United States for 2007 is 213,380, with the estimated deaths projected to be 160,390. About 70 percent of patients are diagnosed at a late stage and only 15 percent will be alive within five years.

Those at highest risk for developing lung cancer are tobacco users. Others who are exposed to secondhand smoke, asbestos, radon or other dangerous environmental elements are also at increased risk.

As Jennifer Jusco, age 56, of Rochester Hills, Michigan, will attest, you don't have to be a smoker to get lung cancer. In December 2002, Jennifer decided to get a physical exam. She was 51-years-old and felt it was time for a good check-up. She was seeing a new doctor.

"I passed the exam with flying colors," said Jennifer. "When the doctor asked if there were any other questions or concerns, I mentioned that I had this lingering cough but attributed it to allergies and getting older."

That's when Jennifer's doctor ordered a chest X-ray, which showed a mass in her right lower lobe. Other than the irritating cough, Jennifer doesn't remember any other symptoms except that from time to time she would lose her breath. Again, she attributed that to getting older. Jennifer never smoked and was not aware of being around anything that would cause concern. She took care of herself, exercised and ate healthy.

Jennifer's biopsy confirmed that she had non-small cell lung cancer. She took a leave from her teaching job to have surgery in early 2003 at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute, followed by radiation and chemotherapy. Her cancer was nearly at stage IIIA, with a 75 percent of reoccurring.

Jennifer was fine for a while until the cancer came back, which caused her to retire early from teaching. Jennifer discussed treatment options with her doctor Antoinette Wozniak, MD, from the Karmanos Cancer Institute, and decided to try a clinical trial. She responded well to the drug treatment.

"The most important thing for me is that I have more time with my kids," expressed Jennifer. I've been able to see my three daughters get married and I now have a granddaughter who is eight months old. My husband Jerry, family, friends, my faith and my doctor have all been a tremendous support for me. I feel like I have this big cocoon of love around me."

Jennifer's message: you don't have to smoke to get lung cancer. If you have a persistent cough, get it checked out. Don't wait. The earlier cancer is detected the better your chances are of surviving.

"I try not to focus on the illness but instead focus on living," said Jennifer. "I'm so thankful for what I have and live each day to the fullest."

Jim Hawkins met his soulmate Sammi in Knoxville, Tennessee, where the two grew up. They were friends for 16 years. When Jim moved to Michigan, Sammi followed. They became engaged, settled in Waterford, Michigan, and planned their wedding for the August 9, 2005. On June 9, 2005, when Jim was 39, he was diagnosed with Stage IV non-small cell lung cancer. He had a CT scan after a seizure, where it was found he had three brain tumors as a result from lung cancer.

Jim loved life. He skydived, played the guitar and learned to race cars. He loved fixing up and racing his 1982 Ford Mustang.

The couple traveled to Venice, Italy, for their wedding. Jim's doctor thought that was just what Jim needed to fight the disease and worked chemotherapy treatments on a three-week schedule giving the couple time for their wedding.

Sammi remembers, "We married August 9, 2005 in Venice, Italy, on the Grand Canal. It was the most perfect wedding day in the history of wedding days. Jim never got sick from chemo, and he was so strong he climbed to the top of the Duomo in Florence."

Jim continued to seem extremely healthy until mid November of that year.

"We found a clinical trial in St. Louis for Jim's brain metastases (mets), which were multiplying weekly, and he was treated there for one round, " said Sammi. "His last CT scan showed over three dozen brain tumors and he was still walking, talking, cracking jokes, and beating everyone at trivia."

Shortly after, Jim's health declined. He passed away December 17, 2005, at the age of 40.

Sammi's background in education policy and her determination to fight this disease in Jim's memory and change lung cancer policy resulted in her volunteering for the Lung Cancer Alliance in Washington. It was her letter to Gov. Granholm that resulted in declaring November National Lung Cancer Awareness Month in Michigan.

Sammi is currently an Advocacy and Program Specialist for the American Lung Association of Michigan.

"This conference is an extension of my grieving, but more importantly, evidence of my healing," said Sammi. "I'm determined to make a difference for people with this disease. Nobody, regardless of their smoking history, should have their life ripped away by this cancer, and then have society say that it isn't important enough to raise research money to find a way to screen early."

"The American Lung Association is committed to improving lung health and is thrilled to be partnering with the Karmanos Cancer Institute to present the BREATHE Lung Cancer Medical and Advocacy Conference," said Tracy Ross, CEO, American Lung Association of the Midland States. "As a part of this commitment, we fully support legislation that would make all workplaces in Michigan, including bars and restaurants, smokefree. We encourage all of Michigan's citizens to contact their lawmakers and urge them to pass House Bill 4163, which would give us the clean, indoor air we deserve."

Detroit businessman Thomas Angott, Sr., of West Bloomfield, Michigan, is an 18 year lung cancer survivor. The former Detroit Fire Commissioner was diagnosed with small-cell lung cancer, a very aggressive cancer, in 1989. He was 63 years of age at the time and hadn't smoked a cigarette in over 20 years.

"I was a heavy smoker for about 35 years," said Tom. "I remember the day I quit. It was during the 1967 Detroit riots. I was Detroit Fire Commissioner at the time. I was standing on 12th Street exhausted from fighting the fires and angry, looking out at our burning city. I went to light a cigarette and it hit me. At that moment I realized the destruction of the fire and smoke and threw the cigarette down. I never smoked again. Little did I know that 22 years later I would be battling lung cancer."

When Tom was diagnosed in 1989, he had already lost his father to pancreatic cancer and lost his first wife to colon cancer. His wife Nancy, a nurse, convinced him to go to the doctor to check on his cough. He was on the board of the Michigan Cancer Foundation at the time, now known as the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute, and reached out to seek the help of the cancer experts there. When the diagnosis of stage III small-cell lung cancer came he knew it wasn't good. He had surgery to remove a lung and went through a strenuous regiment of chemotherapy and radiation over a period of time.

"I always remained optimistic," expressed Tom. "I had excellent care. I didn't fear death. I just always believed I would make it.

"The Karmanos Cancer Institute is the crown jewel for cancer care," said Tom. "With its cutting edge research, multidisciplinary approach to treatment and clinical trials, it's the finest place you can go for cancer care."

Eighteen years later, Tom is still on the board of the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute. He is chairman of C.F. Burger Creamery and enjoys life with his wife Nancy, their 12 children and growing family. Tom will participate in the survivor panel at the Nov. 30 BREATHE conference.

"As a lung cancer specialist, I see daily the devastation this disease has on patients and their loved ones," said John C. Ruckdeschel, MD, president and chief executive officer, Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute.

"We need to educate ourselves and be ambassadors, sharing the message of lung cancer awareness to our families, friends, coworkers and neighbors. We must make health a top priority. We owe it to ourselves, our community and the generations to follow."

The Nov. 30 BREATHE 2007 Lung Cancer Medical and Advocacy Conference will take place at the Ritz-Carlton Dearborn. Registration begins at 7 a.m. The conference runs from 8 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. Registration fee ($75 for physicians and $25 for other guests) includes a continental breakfast and lunch. CME credits will be offered to physicians, nurses and other health care personnel. To register call 248-784-2017 or go to

About the American Lung Association Michigan

Beginning its second century, the American Lung Association is the leading organization working to prevent lung disease and promote lung health. Lung disease death rates continue to increase while other leading causes of death have declined. The American Lung Association funds vital research on the causes of and treatments for lung disease. With the generous support of the public, the American Lung Association is "Improving life, one breath at a time." For more information about the American Lung Association or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872) or log on to

About the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute

The Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute is one of 39 National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the United States. Caring for more than 6,000 new patients annually on a budget of $216 million, conducting more than 700 cancer-specific scientific investigation programs and clinical trials, the Karmanos Cancer Institute is among the nation's best cancer centers. Through the commitment of 1,000 staff, including nearly 300 faculty members, and supported by thousands of volunteer and financial donors, the Institute strives to prevent, detect and eradicate all forms of cancer. John C. Ruckdeschel, M.D., is the Institute's president and chief executive officer. For more information call 1-800-KARMANOS or go to

SOURCE Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute
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