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Lung cancer isn't only for smokers, says local advocate

"Anybody with lungs can get lung cancer," said Shannon Gall.

Kelowna's Shannon Gall, a stage four lung cancer patient, is speaking about her journey to mark Lung Cancer Awareness month this November.

Gall, who is a director with the BC Cancer Foundation, has long been an advocate for cancer research and for destigmatizing lung cancer.

"Anybody with lungs can get lung cancer," she said.

"It is not a smoker’s disease exclusively. Rates of smoking in North America are on the decline, but rates of lung cancer are rising.”

Gall tells Castanet it’s been a rollercoaster of emotions, radiation treatments and surgeries over the last four years, but that the results have been worth it for her and her family.

“When I was first diagnosed in 2018, there was a seven per cent chance that I would be alive in five years. I have just passed year four, managing and living with the disease, but treating it more like a chronic illness than a death sentence."

"My goal is to stay a step ahead of the science. As BC Cancer does more research, I need to stay ahead of that curve.”

She and her husband raised over $1 million to help establish the provincial lung cancer screening program in 2020. She's been raising funds for cancer research since 2015 when her father passed away from pancreatic cancer.

Gall says it was originally simple back pain that led to her eventual diagnosis, so she is encouraging people to always listen to their body and to regularly schedule health check-ups.

“I think just being aware. If you have a pain that doesn’t go away, that’s not normal. If you have a cough that doesn’t go away, don’t blame COVID because it can be anything. If you have a feeling that something is off, see your doctor," said Gall.

According to Stats Canada, more than 21,000 Canadians die each year from lung cancer. Gall is hoping Lung Cancer Awareness Month can help lower those numbers.