Comedian Kathy Griffin revealed that she was diagnosed with lung cancer recently despite never having smoked. Although she’ll need surgery, her doctors are optimistic, Griffin said in a statement on social media.
“I’ve got to tell you guys something. I have cancer. I’m about to go into surgery to have half of my left lung removed,” Griffin wrote in a note posted to Twitter. “Yes, I have lung cancer even though I’ve never smoked! The doctors are very optimistic as it is stage one and contained to my left lung. Hopefully no chemo or radiation after this and I should have normal function with my breathing. I should be up and running around as usual in a month or less.”
While smoking cigarettes is the number risk factor for lung cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up to 20% of people who die due to lung cancer in the U.S. every year are not smokers, the American Cancer Society (ACS) explains. Exposure to secondhand smoke and other cancer-causing chemicals in the air (such as asbestos) can raise your risk for lung cancer even if you don’t smoke. There are also genetic factors that can make you more likely to develop cancer, the ACS says.
That said, lung cancer in nonsmokers is still generally uncommon. But if you develop a new chronic cough or shortness of breath, those could be early signs of lung cancer and are worth getting checked out—whether or not you’re a smoker.
When caught in the early stages when the cancer is smaller and likely confined to the lungs, treatment may only include surgery (as in Griffin’s case), the Mayo Clinic says. But if the cancer is larger and farther along, a patient might need chemotherapy and/or radiation before undergoing surgery.
Griffin ended her note with a plea to her followers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and to stay on top of medical screenings and doctor’s appointments. “Please stay up to date on your medical check ups,” she said. “It’ll save your life.”