"Quit smoking" was a repeated message at an inaugural lung cancer awareness event held Tuesday evening at Penn State Altoona.
In celebration of National Lung Cancer Awareness month in November, the Lung Disease Center of Central PA and Lung Disease Foundation of Central PA and Penn State Altoona held the inaugural "Beacon of Light on Lung Cancer" event at the college's reflecting pond.
The Student Government Association and Greek Life co-sponsored the event.
Mirror photo by Amanda Gabeletto
Beacon of Light on Lung Cancer participant Shannon Sheridan-Chiaro rows a canoe carrying a lighthouse on the Penn State Altoona reflecting pond Tuesday night.
A brief ceremony was held with about 150 people.
Students from Alpha Sigma Tau, Gamma Phi Beta, Acacia fraternity, Phi Sigma Kappa and Sigma Pi constructed lighthouses they took out on the pond in canoes. Glow sticks hung from trees near the pond.
Two thousand glow sticks sponsored by students, community members and businesses were to be on display, and donations were to be accepted for glow sticks lit and displayed in honor of loved ones, a center press release said.
The estimated number of new cases of lung cancer in 2012 is 226,160 and the number of deaths 160,340, according to the National Cancer Institute. Most people discover the disease when it's too late for treatment and 85 percent of patients will die within five years from it. If detected in its earliest stage, the five-year survival rate is between 85 to 100 percent.
James Ruggery, who was recently diagnosed with lung cancer, said an article from Breathe magazine from the center was the catalyst to him getting a CAT scan, which revealed a spot on his lung. Without the article telling him to get the scan because he was a longtime smoker, he would of kept on smoking, he said.
"So quit smoking, please," he said.
The center has more than 160 patients participating in the Lung Cancer Early Detection program where yearly CT scans are done in house, said Dr. George Zlupko, chairman of the center and foundation.
Thanks to the program, two patients are cancer-free today.
Penn State Altoona Chancellor Lori Bechtel-Wherry said often other types of cancer get more coverage than lung cancer.
She advised that now was a good time to quit smoking because the earlier one does so the less chance one has of developing the disease, she said. Cessation programs are available through the college.
Student Lindsey Pastor of Gamma Phi Beta lost her grandmother to lung cancer two years ago.
"My grandma was given a limit on her life, a limit on how much longer she would live, a limit on how much longer her lungs would allow her to breathe," she said. "She did not accept these limits when it came to her soul."
She said her grandmother "looked cancer right in the face and said, 'You will not break my soul.'" However, she said her grandparents became prisoners to the disease.
"Cancer won't stop, and neither will we," Pastor said.
The American Cancer Society's Great American Smoke Out is Nov. 15.
Mirror Staff Writer Amanda Gabeletto is at 949-7030.