Boomers & the Reality of Mortality

OK, for all of you young oldsters out there who have decided you will be living forever, this is fair warning.


I was recently diagnosed with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), and no, I never smoked cigarettes! This is probably the result of living in dirty city air for 60+ years, and having what seemed like constant bronchitis since age 25. I also just moved to a home at 7,000 feet elevation. All of these factors caused shortness of breath and a request for a chest x-ray. Possible lung nodules were found leading to a cat scan this past Monday. As a non-smoking 61 year-old, I did not expect any problem. Instead my cat scan found a number of “nodules” in my lungs.

Overall, the likelihood that a lung nodule is cancer is 40 percent, but the risk of a lung nodule being cancerous varies considerably depending on several things like the size of them, whether you smoke, your occupation, shape of nodules and their rate of growth. Lung nodules — small masses of tissue in the lung — are quite common. They appear as round, white shadows on a chest X-ray or computerized tomography (CT) scan, and are often caused by previous infections.

Think it can’t happen to you? 

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide, with 1.8 million new cases diagnosed yearly. In the United States, lung cancer is the most fatal cancer in women, surpassing breast cancer in 1987 as the leading cause of cancer-related deaths. It is also the most fatal cancer in men, killing more men than prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer, and colon cancer combined. Lung cancer in never-smokers is the sixth leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States.

Overall, 27 percent of cancer deaths in the U.S. are due to lung cancer.

Who Gets Lung Cancer?

lung-cancerThe average age for lung cancer is 70, and 80 percent of people who develop lung cancer have smoked, but lung cancer occurs in women and lung cancer occurs in non-smokers. While lung cancer in men who have smoked is decreasing, lung cancer in non-smokers is increasing.

It’s estimated that 20 percent of women who develop lung cancer in the U.S. have never smoked, and that number increases to 50 percent worldwide. Lung cancer also occurs in young adults – It’s estimated that 13.4 percent of lung cancers occur in adults under the age of 40. While this number may seem small, when compared to the incidence of lung cancer overall, it is not.

In summary, if you haven’t had a lung x-ray in years, get one. My nodules are small and so we have decided to go with a wait and see plan, with cat scans every few months. It’s only a problem if they start to grow.

Now I live in a rural Colorado county with nice clean air, but all those years of living in cities must be catching up with me… How about you?

11 thoughts on “Boomers & the Reality of Mortality

  1. Wow, I’m sorry to hear it. I’m gad you caught it early and hope that it doesn’t end up being a problem. I smoked for a decade as a young person but had to quit because I couldn’t walk up a flight of stairs without stopping. Quitting was the hardest thing I’ve done in a long time. It took years to quit completely. Wishing you the best with your COPD. Can it get better?


  2. In late 2011, my childhood best friend went in for a virtual colonoscopy. She left with a diagnosis of lung cancer. She never smoked. It can happen to any of us and I thank you for blogging about your nodules and the cause. One of my former co workers did not smoke, but has COPD from a lifetime of severe asthma, so you are not alone. If I could also add something else to the discussion, may I mention one more word- radon. Where I live in upstate New York, we are situated on top of a rock formation called Marcellus Shale, which makes us a target for frackers, but there is also something else that accompanies this rock – radon. And exposure to radon can cause lung cancer. This was not my friend’s issue (instead, exposure to 9/11 dust may have been what led to her cancer) but – lung cancer carries a stigma because of the association with smoking, and it should not.


  3. All excellent points, and how absurd that too many feel the need to blame the victim. Let’s face it, life is terminal…None of us get out of this alive, but I am glad that I found out early that I have this pre-disposition now. What a shame to die from lung cancer because you never suspected a problem.

    Radon is very common in homes out here in Colorado too, so much so that they have to be tested before sales. Thanks for sharing Alana!


  4. Some great info here, Laura Lee. I’m halfway through my 5-year post breast cancer program and I want to voices support for your focus on prevention and awareness. My tumors showed up on routine mammagram screening – one that I had procrastinated about getting done. Thanks for posting about this and including warning signs. Wishing you the best working with your COPD management program.


  5. Thanks Shel and welcome! I worked in libraries, and as a medical researching in my freelance writing days. I see no reason to stay badly informed and die early as a consequence of fear or stupidity. It is so easy to do research today. I can’t imagine why so many don’t do it…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I have a chronic cough – possibly reflux, possibly post nasal drip, possibly…… I always worry about my lungs because my dad was a huge smoker and I breathed that in until I left home at 20. Might be time for another chest xray I think. Thanks for the reminder x


  7. Pingback: Now for a discussion of mortality… | Adventures of the NEW Old Farts

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