Marion County Resident Draws Attention to Rising Rates of Lung Cancer Among Women

October 14, 2016

OCALA, Fla. – Oct. 14, 2016 - Almost a decade ago, retired insurance manager Pat Peterson, 66, thought she had the flu, but started coughing up blood and finally went to a doctor. She was immediately admitted to the hospital where a CT scan revealed a tumor in her lung that was also involving lymph nodes. It was small cell lung cancer.

“When I first heard I had cancer, it was like my world had been pulled out from under me,” Peterson said. “I didn’t want to know how bad it was, but after I was discharged, they told me not to go farther than 15 minutes from a hospital.”

Peterson is part of an emerging trend. According to the American Lung Association, in the past 37 years, the lung cancer rate has fallen 28 percent among men, but for reasons that remain unclear, the rates have risen 98 percent among women. One theory is that although percentage of smokers has decreased amongst both sexes, lung cancer development occurs many years after previous smoking. Therefore, current lung cancer trends may simply represent past smoking trends as opposed to current smoking trends.

Also, women seem to be more susceptible to developing lung cancer (even among nonsmokers) due to possible theorized interactions between estrogen (natural or supplements) and the development of mutations that can cause lung cancer, based on animal studies performed on mice.

Lung cancer takes almost 160,000 lives per year; that’s more than breast, prostate and colon cancer combined, according to the American Cancer Society. The five-year survival rate for those diagnosed with the same stage and type of lung cancer as Peterson is about 8 percent.

At the recommendation of her doctors, Peterson embarked on an aggressive treatment plan including chemotherapy, followed by localized thoracic radiation therapy at 21st Century Oncology in Ocala with Ravi Sandrapaty, M.D.

“Pat had small-cell carcinoma, which is a relatively rare and aggressive lung cancer that can spread very rapidly,” said Dr. Sandrapaty. “It often spreads to the brain, which is why I also subsequently recommended prophylactic cranial radiation therapy, after her primary thoracic disease was treated and controlled.”

Peterson was grateful for the treatment plan that saved her life.

“Dr. Sandrapaty and his team did a tremendous job,” said Peterson. “I haven’t experienced any side effects and I never missed work.”

She also had a strong support system that included her teenage daughter and her husband of 26 years.

“My family was great and I couldn’t have done it without them,” she said. “You go through emotions all the time, but I was bound and determined it wouldn’t defeat me. Cancer will never ruin my life.”

Nine years cancer free, Peterson has grown to appreciate life.

“It’s made me appreciate a lot, I don’t take things for granted. “Cancer doesn’t have to be a death sentence. You need to keep a positive attitude, lean on people if you need to and ask your doctor’s questions if you want to know something.”

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About 21st Century Oncology

21st Century Oncology is the largest global provider of Integrated Cancer Care services that strongly believes in fighting for patients like an army and caring for them like a family. Operating as one dream team in the crusade against cancer, the company employs or is affiliated with nearly 1,000 physicians globally to deliver the most advanced, integrated, and compassionate cancer care in personal and convenient settings. Headquartered in Fort Myers, FL, 21st Century Oncology operates 165 treatment centers, including 129 centers located in 15 U.S. states. In addition, the company operates 36 centers located in eight countries in Latin America. For more information, please visit


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