We’ll Miss You Dearly, Peter

In the Name of God, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful

On August 7, I was extremely saddened to hear of the death of ABC News anchor Peter Jennings. He succumbed to lung cancer at the age of 67, four months after he announced his diagnosis on national television. I felt a deep loss.

Peter was a mainstay of my nightly routine. I would look forward to hearing his voice on the evening news, his perspective on world events, his professional demeanor. I felt he was the only anchor who was fair and unbiased when it came to Muslim and Middle East issues. He brought a perspective most other anchors lacked. The world of broadcast news has lost an enormous giant. The world of broadcast news will never be the same. Nay, the world itself will never be the same. May you rest in God’s peace. Amen.

His death brings up the issue of smoking and lung cancer. I am a pulmonologist (lung specialist). I see firsthand the devastation of smoking and its effects. Most often, the patients who present with a malignant lung mass are way past a curative stage. This is because lung cancer starts as a tiny nodule (spot) on your lung, and it causes no symptoms whatsoever. Most often, it only comes to the attention of patients and their doctors when the mass grows large enough to cause symptoms: cough, coughing up blood, unexplained weight loss, shortness of breath, chest pain, etc.

How about screening for lung cancer with CT scans? There is some observational study data that people with a history of heavy smoking who get screening have more lung cancers diagnosed at an early stage. The definitive studies, however, are ongoing and results are not available for another four or five years.

Here is the bottom line: the best way to improve your health is to stop smoking. With each cigarette, the lung gets more and more damaged. With each cigarette, the risk of developing lung cancer goes up ever so slightly. I know that quitting smoking is not easy (ask anyone who’s ever tried). Nicotine is more addictive than heroin! Nevertheless, it is very important to do so. Lung cancer is the most deadly form of cancer, even though it is not the most common. Women are especially at risk.

One thing I must tell you: I am posting this as just helpful information. Don’t EVER substitute this blog post for a thorough medical examination. You should see your doctor if you have any symptom or problem. Also, you can get more information from the American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, and the National Cancer Institute. If Peter’s death can help more people stop smoking and raise more awareness about the horrific scourge that is lung cancer, then even in death, Peter Jennings will have made a difference in our world.

We’ll miss you dearly, Peter, we will miss you dearly.


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