San Diego Lung Cancer 5k Walk Set For This Weekend - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

San Diego Lung Cancer 5k Walk Set For This Weekend

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The First Annual San Diego Lung Cancer walk kicks Sunday, March 8 on Harbor Island. Most people don't realize that lung cancer is the deadliest form of cancer, and you don't have to be a cigarette smoker to get it.

It's been almost four years since Mike Stevens found out he has lung cancer - a diagnosis that took him by surprise, because he had never smoked.

"I had a bad cough for four months and kept dismissing it, and I have a wonderful wife who forced me to go back to the doctor to find out why it was and it turned out to be lung cancer," explained Stevens.

In fact, 15 to 20 percent of patients who get lung cancer never smoked.

"There is a stigma behind lung cancer. Most people consider it as a smokers' disease. You have to smoke to get it, which is not true," continued Stevens.

Non smokers can get lung cancer from any number of genetic and environmental factors, including second hand smoke, air pollution, asbestos or radon gas in buildings.

Doctors at UCSD's Moores Cancer Center say that old stigma associating lung cancer exclusively with smoking has hurt research funding.

"By attaching a stigma to lung cancer as a self inflicted disease, we are significantly decreasing the funding for lung cancer and that's why we have not made significant progress in lung cancer survival," said UCSD Oncologist Doctor Lyuda Bazhenova.

"Breast cancer is getting $23,000 per death and lung cancer is getting about $1,800. When you see statistics like that you get angry. And most lung cancer patients are angry," said Stevens.

As co-chair of the Lung Cancer Alliance, Stevens has made it his mission to prevent lung cancer, increase funding for research and to boost public awareness.

On March 8, Stevens is helping organize the first ever San Diego Lung Cancer 5K Walk, which will start at Cancer Survivor's Park on Harbor Drive, circle around Harbor Island and end up at the park again.

"I'm here for a reason and that reason is to make a difference for lung cancer. That's why we're putting on this walk and that's why I'm helping other survivors get through this disease," noted Stevens.

Stevens says he may never know how he contracted lung cancer. But his focus now is helping others.

"There's other things that cause lung cancer. We need to find out what those things are. And, we need to make an effort to save people's lives," added Stevens.

All money raised in this weekend's lung cancer walk, will be matched by a national lung cancer group called The Lungevity Foundation.

Registration begins at 8 a.m. Sunday, March 8 at Cancer Survivor's Park on Harbor Drive across from the airport. It's $25 to participate.

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