It wasn't necessarily an insult; 97 percent of lung cancer patients are 40 or older, and the average age at diagnosis is 70. Yet there's been a significant uptick in lung cancer diagnoses among young nonsmoking women, thanks to a mutated gene that's begun working its way down through the population, in the most unwelcome trend since Uggs. It can take a long time to diagnose these women, largely because active teens and 20somethings don't tend to get body scans for every little thing and few doctors entertain the possibility of lung cancer. By the time it's detected, it's a Breaking Bad situation. Christina had a persistent cough for two years, but she didn't think much of it until she started getting pain in her hip so severe that she sometimes had to walk with a cane.
Quite like the aforementioned 70-year-olds, coincidentally.
"The doctor told me I had a large mass in my lung -- the size of my fist -- and it was most likely cancerous, since there were other lesions throughout my body," she says. "The cancer had spread to my lumbar spine, my right hip, my liver, my lymph nodes, and my brain, which unfortunately meant it wasn't curable, and I would only receive palliative treatment."
It was like rolling snake-eyes on 100-sided dice: Only 2-3 percent of people who get lung cancer are under 40. The odds are slightly higher for breast cancer, accounting for about 5 percent of all cases. Susanne just squeaked into that exclusive club when she found what she thought was a cyst when she was 39, and Jo Evelyn was only 31. "I thought it was funny," Jo Evelyn says, "'I'm having a really bad week, and now I've got this lump.'"
Kinda puts that lady at work swiping your lunch in perspective, though.