In 2005, Dusty Donaldson experienced tenderness and pain in her neck that didn't go away over several months. When her doctor couldn't detect any physical cause, and the pain continued, Donaldson decided more had to be done. "The pain was persistent, and so was I."
Today, she's thankful for her persistence. Ultrasound and CT scans found something suspicious in her right lung. That turned out to be a five-centimeter cancerous tumor between the upper and middle lobes of her lungs. It was an early-stage cancer and had not spread to other parts of her lungs or her body.
Donaldson, who had quit smoking 26 years before her diagnosis, had not even considered that she might have lung cancer.
"I was really surprised at the time to find out that lung cancer is the number one cause of cancer deaths in men and women. More people die from lung cancer than from all the others combined," Donaldson says. "Lung cancer death rates are the equivalent of a 747 jumbo jet crashing to the ground every single day."
Surgeons removed almost two-thirds of her lung and treated her with chemotherapy for three months. Today, she remains cancer free and has made a commitment to help others understand lung cancer and the need for early detection.
—Dusty Donaldson, 58, High Point, NC
Donaldson volunteers with the nonprofit LUNGevity Foundation to help the organization educate the public about lung cancer.
"I'm compelled to find others and share with them information regarding screening," she says. "Early detection is key to survivorship," she adds. "There's not a single soul on this earth who doesn't need to know about lung cancer. People who don't know they are at risk, need to know that there are other risk factors—genetics, radon, and other things that can cause lung cancer."
The 2011 National Cancer Institute's National Lung Screening Trial showed the importance of detecting lung cancer early. The trial also showed for the first time an effective screening approach for a high-risk population.
"Now thanks to the National Lung Screening Trial, we know screening can be more effective than anything else," says Donaldson. "People who are at great risk don't have to consider themselves doomed to lung cancer. They can have early detection, get treated early, and hopefully live a long and healthy life."