Wed, Feb 14, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Documentary gives hope to lung cancer sufferers

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Ten years ago, Chen Hsiao-lian (陳小蓮, the name has been changed to protect her privacy) found out that she had third-stage lung cancer right before she was about to leave for studies abroad with her boyfriend.

Kuo Han-bin (郭漢彬), a physician at Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, recalled Chen's condition at a presentation held by the Taiwan Chest Disease Association (TCDA) yesterday.

Kuo said that doctors could not perform surgery on Chen as her cancer was already in the late stage, leaving Chen with no option but chemotherapy. The painful treatment, however, failed to cure her.

Chen was not a smoker, and no one in her family has ever had lung cancer. Unwilling to let her boyfriend see her as her condition deteriorated, she decided to break up with him.

Fortunately, the cancer cells in Chen's lungs did not spread. And as better treatment for lung cancer was discovered, doctors were able to reduce the size of Chen's tumor. Chen's tumor was later removed and she continued to receive chemotherapy until her doctor declared her cancer-free.

Chen's story and those of others have been documented in a film that is available to the public free of charge.

Public awareness about the risk of contracting lung cancer has risen, which may be attributed in part to media coverage of celebrities and well-known personalities who have suffered from the disease. These include the late dancer and choreographer Lo Man-fei (羅曼菲), the late former minister of justice Chen Ding-nan (陳定南), the late secretary general of the National Security Bureau Ying Tsung-wen (殷宗文) and the late minister for the Council of Agriculture Yu Yu-hsien (余玉賢).

But through the encouraging stories of those who have survived the battle with cancer, the association hopes to send a strong message that lung cancer is not necessarily a terminal disease.

A majority of the patients died because they gave up on the treatment, it said.

"Many gave up after they realized that only one-fifth of lung cancer patients will survive," Kuo said. "Quitting seems to be another curse from the angel of death."

Tsai Chun-ming (蔡俊明), a doctor at the Taipei Veterans' General Hospital, said the nation has witnessed a 3 percent annual increase in the number of people with lung cancer, with the fatality rate reaching 90 percent.

Tsai, however, believed that the invention of the "sugar chip" should help in accurately identifying lung cancer at an early stage.

The sugar chip, developed by Academia Sinica President Wong Chi-huey (翁啟惠) along with researchers at the US' Scripps Research Institute, can detect cancer within a second with 100 percent accuracy, as well as the HIV and H5N1 viruses, Academia Sinica's ENews reported last Tuesday.

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