Dana Reeve Dies of Lung Cancer

Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stoppler, MD
Medical Editor: Dennis Lee, MD

Dana Reeve, the widow of actor Christopher Reeve, passed away on March 6, 2006 after losing her battle with lung cancer. Mrs. Reeve was chairperson of the Christopher Reeve Foundation, a charitable organization that she founded with her husband. The Foundation was dedicated to supporting research into treatments and therapies for paralysis and improvement of the quality of life for people suffering from spinal cord injuries. Christopher Reeve had been paralyzed since 1995 after a horseback riding accident.

Less than a year after her husband died of injuries relating to his paralysis, Mrs. Reeve announced In August of 2005 that she had developed lung cancer. Mrs. Reeve was not a typical victim of lung cancer; she was only 44 years old and had been a non-smoker throughout her life.

Lung cancers can occur in non-smokers due to exposures to passive smoke, asbestos, radon gas, and other carcinogens (cancer-causing agents) in polluted air. An individual's genetic makeup can also play a role in determining their susceptibility to lung cancer and other cancers. About 10% of the estimated 170,000 new cases of lung cancer each year that occur in the U.S. are estimated to occur in non-smokers. Treatment of lung cancer depends upon the exact type of lung cancer and the extent to which the tumor has spread throughout the body at the time it is discovered. Therapies for lung cancer can involve a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy as well as newer experimental methods. Still, survival rates for lung cancer are generally lower than those for most cancers, with an overall 5-year survival rate for lung cancer of about 15%, compared to 63% for colon cancer, 88% for breast cancer, and 99% for prostate cancer.

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Last Editorial Review: 3/8/2006



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