Health Team

Weekend event raises money for lung cancer treatment

Posted November 7, 2008

— Before she was diagnosed with lung cancer in September 2007, 40-year-old Melita Hunt thought she was as healthy as anybody she knew.

Then, she asked the same question over and over. How did she get lung cancer, considered by many to be a smoker's disease, when she never smoked?

Lung cancer kills more people than breast, prostate, colon, liver, kidney and melanoma cancers combined. Even if you don't smoke, you are not immune from it.

"Quite a few people get lung cancer who've never smoked," said Dr. David White, a thoracic surgeon at Duke University Medical Center.

In fact, 15 percent of lung cancer patients never smoked.

White says he's not so focused on the causes of the disease, however. He's focused on saving lives by raising money for research through the annual Free to Breathe event in Raleigh.

The event, which consists of a one-mile run/walk, 5K run/walk and a 100-yard kid's dash, begins Saturday at 9 a.m. on the North Carolina State University Centennial Campus at Main Campus Drive and Campus Shore Drive.

The main goal, White says, is to help find a screening test that's more effective.

"For years, all we've had is a chest X-ray and more recently. CT scans," White said. Even the best imaging often only detects lung tumors when they are advanced and spreading.

White would also like to offer more effective treatment.

For Hunt, radiation was ineffective, but she's responded well to chemotherapy.

"It's actually gone from a big round-like lemon inside my lung to practically nothing," she said.

Meanwhile, she wants to help others with lung cancer by shattering misconceptions about the disease.

"I hope that people recognize that it isn't looking for what caused it, it's looking for what makes it better," she said.


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  • 1chilehead Nov 11, 2008

    Radon exposure is the number 1 cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. Several courageous lung cancer victims and current survivors have left their message at Don't procrastinate until its too late. Test your home for radon today! Go to to learn more.

  • CricketGayle Nov 10, 2008

    My father lost his battle with lung cancer in 2003. My grandmother lost hers in 1989. My 28-year old cousin is just beginning his battle and he is already at Stage IV. My dad and grandmother never smoked. Although my cousin did smoke from the time he was 14 years old (he quit in April of this year) our family is pre-disposed to lung cancer. Any effort to raise money for lung cancer research needs to be widely touted and supported. We've lost too many people to this awful disease. November is Lung Cancer Awareness month. Get the word out!!

  • wonderwoman 65 Nov 10, 2008

    Please support this event. My Aunt was diagnosed with lung cancer last year and unfortunately lost her battle. By the time they found it, it had already spread to the brain. Better screenings and earlier detection could possibly saved her life or at least given her more time. We miss her greatly as she was a great woman!! Please let's find a cure or at least better detection methods.