“Joe Pa” Gone

Legendary Penn State Coach Joe Paterno has died of lung cancer.

Lovingly known as “Joe Pa” in his 46 year stint as Head Coach at Penn State, Paterno held the all-time Division I record for football coaching wins with a 409-136-3 record. His team went undefeated in five different seasons, and he won two national championships.

He was fired by Penn State in October for his lack of action in the sex-abuse scandal involving former assistant Jerry Sandusky. Only a month later, he was diagnosed with lung cancer and had a rapid down-hill course.

9 things you should know about lung cancer:

1. Lung cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world. The WHO (World Health Organization) says that about 1.4 million people will die of lung cancer each year.

2. It is a leading cause of cancer death in men and women in the United States. According to the National Cancer Institute: It is estimated that there will be 226,160  new cases and 160, 340 deaths from lung cancer  in the United States in 2012.

3. Cigarette smoking causes most lung cancers.

4. The more cigarettes you smoke per day and the earlier you started smoking, the greater your risk.

5. High levels of pollution, radiation and asbestos exposure may also increase risk.

6. There are two main types:

  • Small cell carcinoma – about 13% of lung cancers are of this type which tends to spread quickly
  • Non-small cell carcinoma – about 87% of lung cancers are of this type which spreads more slowly

7. Common symptoms  include:

  • A cough that doesn’t go away and gets worse over time
  • Constant chest pain
  • Coughing up blood
  • Shortness of breath, wheezing, or hoarseness
  • Repeated problems with pneumonia or bronchitis
  • Swelling of the neck and face
  • Loss of appetite or weight loss
  • Fatigue

8. Certain factors affect prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options.

  • The stage of the cancer (the size of the tumor and whether it is in the lung only or has spread to other places in the body).
  • The type of cancer.
  • Whether there are symptoms such as coughing or trouble breathing.
  • The patient’s general health.

9. For most patients with non-small cell lung cancer, current treatments do not cure the cancer.

If lung cancer is found, taking part in one of the many clinical trials being done to improve treatment should be considered. Clinical trials are taking place in most parts of the country for patients with all stages of non-small cell lung cancer. Information about ongoing clinical trials is available from the NCI Web site.

Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

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