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Picture of Dr.Maria Werner-Wasik, M.D.

If You Could Spend
a Day With Me

by Dr. Maria Werner-Wasik, M.D.

As a radiation oncologist, I treat patients with lung cancer every day. One of them is a 31 year old woman now receiving palliative (temporizing) treatment for her widespread small cell lung cancer compressing blood vessels in her chest and making her very short of breath. She has preschool children at home. She did not smoke very much but had started young. When I look at her in the waiting room she appears like a teenager herself.

It seems that a lesser amount of smoking is necessary for women than men before they develop lung cancer. A few years ago, lung cancer became the most common cause of cancer death in women here in the United States, well ahead of breast cancer. Such is the price women are paying for the Virginia Slims campaign. The cigarettes indeed make those women quite slim.

I endorse WhyQuit's message and wish it luck. The idea of showing, publicly, people dying of lung cancer to deter others from doing so may be repulsive to some, but I support it. People who do not see those patients find it hard to believe that cancer can strike them personally. If "Saving private Ryan" can show blood pouring from the intestines and film severed extremities on the battlefield to show the truth about war, so can we - anti-smoking activists - show people suffering from cancer, who are willing to share their experience.

Please feel free to quote my letter on your web page. Good luck again.

Maria Werner-Wasik, M.D.
Radiation Oncologist
Assistant Professor, Thomas Jefferson Medical College

Have you met Noni? If not, click on her photo.

Noni with her three month old son.

She was 32 when lung cancer was discovered.

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