Kathy Griffin Got Lung Cancer Despite Never Smoking — Here's What to Know About the Condition

© Provided by People FilmMagic Kathy Griffin

Kathy Griffin shared difficult news last week: despite never being a smoker, she was diagnosed with stage 1 lung cancer, and would undergo surgery to remove part of her left lung.

While the majority of lung cancer diagnoses occur in people who smoke, a small but growing portion of patients are non-smokers.

“It’s a lot more common than people realize,” Dr. Nathan Pennell, a lung cancer specialist at the Cleveland Clinic, tells PEOPLE. Of the 200,000 Americans a year who are diagnosed with lung cancer, around 10% of the men and 15% of the women have never smoked, though those percentages are likely higher, as the data is a few years behind, he explains.

RELATED: Kathy Griffin Reveals Lung Cancer Diagnosis, Will Undergo Surgery: ‘Doctors Are Very Optimistic’

Pennell says researchers are unsure if the rise in lung cancer cases among non-smokers is because “it’s truly more common and more people are getting it, or whether it’s just a higher percentage of people with lung cancer are non-smokers because fewer people are smoking. Less than 15% of adults in the U.S. are smoking now, which is fantastic, so a higher percentage of the cases of lung cancer in the last five or six years are in non-smokers.”

© FilmMagic Kathy Griffin

But generally, “the only thing you need in order to get lung cancer is lungs,” he says.

Here’s what to know about lung cancer in non-smokers.

How do non-smokers get lung cancer?

It’s not fully known how non-smokers develop lung cancer, Pennell says, but “there are a number of risk factors other than tobacco for lung cancer.”

“There’s definitely some component of family history,” he says. “Radon, which is a colorless odorless gas that is in most people’s basements in the United States, is probably the second biggest risk factor for lung cancer behind tobacco. That’s something that everyone tests for now when they sell a house, but for older people, it wasn’t routinely tested for when they were growing up and they could have been exposed to that. And industrial pollution and other things like heavy metals certainly can play a role as well.”

What are the symptoms of lung cancer?

Unfortunately, lung cancer is difficult to diagnose early in non-smokers.

“We have screening CT scans, but that’s only for people who have smoked at least 30 packs a year and are over age 50,” Pennell says. “For people who have smoked less than that, or have never smoked, there’s no screening.”

Video: Kathy Griffin Shares She Has Lung Cancer Despite “Never” Smoking (E! News)

RELATED: Kathy Griffin Speaks in First Video Update Since Lung Surgery, Receives Outpouring of Love: ‘Praying for You’

Part of diagnosing lung cancer in non-smokers comes down to “luck,” he says.

“If they go into the emergency room because they had a bike accident or a car accident and get scans, doctors could spot a nodule in their lungs,” he says. Otherwise, people may develop a bad cough or be coughing up blood, which would hint at lung problems, but “unfortunately, most of the time when you develop symptoms from your lung cancer, it’s more advanced at that point and harder to cure.”

Griffin had that luck on her side, and said that her doctors noticed her lung cancer during a regular checkup.


— Kathy Griffin (@kathygriffin) August 2, 2021

What does treatment typically involve?

For those like Griffin with stage 1 lung cancer that has not spread outside the lungs, “the typical surgery is a lobectomy,” Pennell says.

“Doctors will usually remove the complete lobe of the lung where the tumor is, leaving you with the other half still to breathe. And in non-smokers, especially, typically you can survive just fine on three quarters of your lungs,” he says.

The whole portion of the lung, and not just the tumor itself, must come out because of how fast the cancer moves.

“Lung cancer is very nasty and it spreads very early through the lymphatic channels to lymph nodes,” Pennell says. “The lungs are essentially sort of the filter system for everything that you breathe, and have very extensive lymphatics and lymph nodes throughout them. And so it has been very conclusively shown that just removing the portion of the lung with the tumor in it has a much higher rate of recurrence than removing the entire lobe of the lung, which also removes all of the lymph nodes and fabrics.”

RELATED VIDEO: Kathy Griffin Reveals Lung Cancer Diagnosis, Will Undergo Surgery: ‘Doctors Are Very Optimistic’

But if the cancer truly hasn’t spread — which is something doctors will get a better sense of once they remove the tumor — surgery is usually enough. If it has moved out of the lungs, though, patients could need additional treatments like chemotherapy or radiation.

What is recovery from lung removal surgery like?

In 2021, a lobectomy is minimally invasive surgery, Pennell says, and has “very short recovery times.”

“Oftentimes people are only in the hospital for 48 hours and within a month they feel seventy-five percent better. And within three months they feel, more or less, a hundred percent again.”

While you “do lose some of your excess capacity for exercise or breathing,” he adds, it won’t have much of a noticeable effect unless the patient is a pro athlete.

“People can even live with one lung, honestly. Especially if they’re healthy.”

How can we improve outcomes for non-smokers with cancer?

Pennell wants people to be aware that “non-smokers absolutely get lung cancer.”

“It’s a lot more common than people realize,” he says. “And we do need to do a lot more research in order to try to help screen for that, because right now there really is no way of identifying lung cancer in non-smokers other than again, by luck.”

Internet Explorer Channel Network
News Related


US coronavirus: J&J vaccine recipients should get their second dose as soon as it's available, experts say

As the greenlight looms for another dose of Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine, experts on Friday urged those who received it to get a booster shot as soon as it’s ... Read more »

More Covid-19 boosters are on the horizon. But not everyone will need one, experts say

Advisers from the US Food and Drug Administration voted unanimously to recommend emergency authorization of a booster dose of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine, and a day later did so again for ... Read more »

Tone your inner thighs with these 7 exercises, without leaving your bed!

When you think about working your inner thighs, you might believe it’s really hard. But NO, that’s not true! You don’t need to go to the gym or follow a ... Read more »

World Food Day 2021: 5 Food Items That You Can Eat Anytime of The Day Without Worrying About Calories or Indigestion

© KS Swati | India.com Lifestyle Staff World Food Day 2021: 5 Food Items That You Can Eat Anytime of The Day Without Worrying About Calories or Indigestion. Picture Credits: ... Read more »

World Food Day 2021: History, significance and theme this year

© Provided by The Indian Express World Food Day is celebrated every year on October 16 to commemorate the date of the founding of the United Nations Food and Agriculture ... Read more »

WC Health dept urges people to be cautious during snake season

© Pexels CAPE TOWN – The Western Cape Health Department is advising residents to be cautious while doing outdoor activities as its now snake season. October to April is snakebite ... Read more »

World Anaesthesia Day 2021: Here's How Surgeries Were Conducted Without Anaesthesia, and How it has Changed Now

© Provided by News18 World Anaesthesia Day 2021: Here’s How Surgeries Were Conducted Without Anaesthesia, and How it has Changed Now World Anesthesia Day is celebrated on October 16, all ... Read more »

Designs for dementia sufferers reinvent their world – a jacket that looks OK worn upside down, a way to tell time without numbers

Dementia is an incipient public health catastrophe. The World Health Organization estimates that 55 million people are afflicted, with some to be found among Hong Kong’s ageing citizens. Solutions offered ... Read more »

Health Department: More than 20 MILLION vaccine doses administered

© Provided by The South African In what can be described as a positive milestone in South Africa’s vaccination rollout, the number of jabs administered has breached the 20 million ... Read more »

South Africa surpasses milestone with 20 million jabbed against COVID

© Kaylynn Palm/Eyewitness News Jody Ziervogel gets his COVID-19 vaccine shot at the ATlone Stadium drive-through facility in Cape Town on 2 September 2021. JOHANNESBURG – South Africa has surpassed ... Read more »

Centennial makes it count against Norco with 48-24 victory

Six months of waiting. Six months of plotting. Six months of preparing to seek revenge. Corona Centennial players, coaches and fans just could not forget what happened on April 3, ... Read more »

Recipe: Celebrate World Food Day 2021 with a mouthwatering dish of Bean Foogath

Celebrated internationally to commemorate the date of the founding of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in 1945, World Food Day is marked annually on 16 October. The food ... Read more »

NSW hits vaccine milestone faster than expected, new Premier declares

NSW has hit the sought-after 80 per cent vaccination rate it raced so swiftly towards, even earlier than expected on the first lockdown-free weekend in months. Newly installed Premier Dom ... Read more »

10 signs you may have celiac disease and when to see a doctor

© Cavan Images/Getty Images 10 signs you may have celiac disease and when to see a doctor Celiac disease symptoms include bloating, gas, constipation, and abdominal pain. A common, but ... Read more »

How to return to exercise after recovering from COVID-19

© Provided by 702 When a person recovers from the coronavirus, the body is in a state of severe inflammation and is often exhausted just from the recovery process even ... Read more »

Bring your tresses back to life with these 3 Ayurvedic ingredients

There is a wide variety of beauty and cosmetic products available to help achieve healthy and beautiful hair. However, there is nothing like natural ingredients, as they help promote hair ... Read more »

How to survive world's longest coronavirus quarantine without losing your mind

Do not take Hong Kong’s three-week hotel quarantine, the world’s longest, lightly – you’ve got to go in with a plan. I approached it much like I planned trips to ... Read more »

New gene-edited wheat which can be more heavily toasted could make for tastier breakfasts

Breakfasts could become that little bit tastier if trials of a new type of wheat that can be heavily toasted without becoming carcinogenic go according to plan. While many people ... Read more »

‘Fine doesn't fit the crime': Premier calls for harsher penalty for quarantine breacher who caused lockdown

The Tasmanian Premier has called for a harsher penalty for the NSW man who left hotel quarantine and forced part of the state into a snap three-day lockdown. Peter Gutwein ... Read more »

‘Tragic': Victorian teenager dies with Covid and ‘a number' of other conditions

A 15-year-old girl is among Victoria’s seven Covid-19 deaths overnight, while the number of cases in the state’s hospitals has surged. Covid testing commander Jeroen Weimar would not comment on ... Read more »

Nkengasong and Ihekweazu are leaving the continent. Is this a brain drain or gain for Africa?

Two of Africa’s Covid experts are clearing out their desks and counting the hours as they prepare to take up new roles offered to them overseas. © Provided by CNN ... Read more »

World Spine Day 2021: Theme, History and Significance

© Provided by News18 World Spine Day 2021: Theme, History and Significance World Spine Day is celebrated annually on October 16 to raise awareness about spinal health, spinal pain and ... Read more »

World Food Day 2021: High-protein Foods Vegetarians Should Add to Their Diet

© Provided by News18 World Food Day 2021: High-protein Foods Vegetarians Should Add to Their Diet Are you ensuring you are having enough protein in your diet? Protein is a ... Read more »

CDC releases updated holiday guidance: Have yourself a 'good, normal Christmas'

1 / 2CDC releases updated holiday guidance: Have yourself a ‘good, normal Christmas’ The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged Americans on Friday to celebrate upcoming holidays by taking ... Read more »

Fact check: Video on World Health Organization's VigiAccess tool lacks context

The claim: The World Health Organization's VigiAccess tool shows deaths, reactions from COVID-19 vaccine Amid the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in different countries, health officials and scientists have utilized national ... Read more »

Gold Coast woman accused of handing out more than 600 fake Covid medical exemption certificates

A Gold Coast woman was allegedly pretending to be a doctor when she issued hundreds of fake Covid-related exemption certificates – and police are concerned she may have dished out ... Read more »

How to Diagnose Mitochondrial Disease

Mitochondrial diseases include a wide range of conditions that weaken a person’s neuromuscular system, such as Alpers disease, Leigh disease, or Luft disease. This is because the energy-producing parts of ... Read more »

World Anaesthesia Day 2021: History, Significance and Types of Anaesthesia

© Provided by News18 World Anaesthesia Day 2021: History, Significance and Types of Anaesthesia World Anaesthesia Day is observed to remember the “first successful use of diethyl ether anaesthesia” in ... Read more »

En Chivas no me dieron la suficiente confianza: Gallito Vázquez

El ahora jugador del Toluca, José Juan ‘Gallito’ Vázquez reveló que durante su segunda etapa como elemento de Chivas no recibió la confianza necesaria para poder destacar dentro del terreno ... Read more »

Double amputee beats breast cancer diagnosis

Even before her stage two breast cancer diagnosis in 2020, Yvonne Llanes knew her strength — and her community. Llanes, who was first introduced to “World News Tonight” in 2017, ... Read more »

US regulators weigh whether people can mix COVID booster shots

U.S. regulators are considering revising the rules for COVID-19 vaccines to allow people to opt for a different type of shot for their booster than what they originally received, a ... Read more »

Salmonella Outbreak With 'Unknown Food Source' Has Spread to 36 States

A U.S. salmonella outbreak that began in recent months has now expanded to 36 states and infected nearly 600 people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). ... Read more »

The FDA advisory panel recommends Moderna boosters for certain at-risk groups

On Thursday, an advisory panel of scientists for the Food and Drug Administration voted unanimously to recommend a booster shot of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for a large number of Americans. ... Read more »

Bristol Myers Squibb (BMY) Outpaces Stock Market Gains: What You Should Know

Bristol Myers Squibb (BMY) closed the most recent trading day at $58.36, moving +1.14% from the previous trading session. The stock outpaced the S&P 500’s daily gain of 0.75%. Coming ... Read more »

4 key moments from Dr. Sanjay Gupta's appearance on Joe Rogan's podcast

When CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta sat down for a three-hour conversation on “The Joe Rogan Experience” podcast, the chief topic was Covid-19. © From Joe Rogan Experience ... Read more »

Caraway Cookware Really Is Worth the Hype—And Not Just Because It's Ridiculously Easy To Clean

© Photo: Caraway caraway cookware set review Surely by now you’ve seen Caraway cookware splashed across your Instagram feed, reviewed in top cooking magazines, or even in the cabinets of ... Read more »

Being Honest With Usain Bolt

Even though he hung up his gold spikes in 2017, Usain Bolt still radiates speed. After all, he’s still the world record holder in both the 100-meter and 200-meter races. ... Read more »

Exercising This Much Could Prevent Multiple Types of Cancer, New Study Finds

When it comes to getting the right amount of exercise, there’s a lot of contradictory advice out there. Personal trainers, doctors, and dietitians may all give you different advice regarding ... Read more »

Everything you need to know about UK's ‘super cold' & how to cope with it

THOUSANDS around the nation are suffering with “the worst cold ever”. Victims have flooded social media reporting symptoms of the “super cold”, which include sandpaper throats, headaches, dripping noses and ... Read more »

What is celiac disease? The autoimmune disorder 2.5 million Americans don't know they have

© AndreyPopov/Getty Images What is celiac disease? The autoimmune disorder 2.5 million Americans don’t know they have Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder where eating gluten causes damage to the ... Read more »