FLEMINGTON, NJ - November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, something Delaware Township resident Dr. Lidia Vitale is passionate about.

That’s because she hopes her story will help spread awareness for the disease. 

In 2016, Vitale, an Obstetrician and Gynecologist at Advanced OB/GYN affiliated with Hunterdon Medical Center, had a persistent dry cough. 

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“I didn’t think much of it, but it bothered me,” she said. “After a visit to my pulmonologist, Dr. Anthony Granato and a few tests, I was shocked when I was told of my lung cancer diagnosis.”

Although smoking is the leading risk factor for lung cancer, up to 15 to 20 percent of people who are diagnosed with lung cancer have never smoked, according to the American Cancer Society. 

I never smoked and always thought lung cancer in nonsmokers was rare, but I unfortunately learned that is not the case,” Vitale said.

Other risk factors include exposure to radon gas, secondhand smoke, asbestos, radiation, certain organic chemicals, air pollution, diesel exhaust and certain metals, such as arsenic chromium.  A family history and genetic risk factors may also play a role in the development of lung cancer.

Common symptoms of lung cancer include recurring respiratory infections, an enduring cough, aches or pains in shoulders, back or chest, shortness of breath, hoarseness or wheezing, exhaustion, weakness and loss of appetite.  A bloody cough is also common.

“Although I have retired from medicine to focus on my health, my personal mission and hope is to make our community aware of the causes and risk factors for developing lung cancer.  I am currently undergoing treatment at Hunterdon Regional Cancer Center, but my mission in this month and every month is to increase awareness, especially in nonsmokers and to raise money to support lung cancer research,” Vitale said. “I will be selling awareness bracelets throughout Hunterdon County to benefit both the Lung Cancer Research Foundation and GO2 Foundation for Lung Cancer.”

The bracelets will be available for a $5 donation (or more) at the Hunterdon Health and Wellness Centers in Clinton and Whitehouse Station, Hunterdon Regional Cancer Center, Advanced Obstetrics and Gynecology offices in Flemington, Lebanon and Branchburg,  retail stores, Attachments, Sage and The Paint Party Studio in Flemington, as well as The Italian Bakery in Flemington and Raritan.

A special Painting for a Cause will be held at The Paint Party Studio on Sunday, Nov. 10 from 3 to 6 p.m.  Half of the proceeds will support lung cancer foundations.  To register visit, www.thepaintpartystudio.com

For those with a smoking history, Hunterdon Regional Cancer Center recommends yearly lung cancer screening with low-dose CT scan (LDCT) for people who have a history of heavy smoking, smoke now or have quit within the past 15 years, and are between 55 and 80 years old.

For more information contact your Primary Care Provider’s office to ask if you qualify for lung cancer screening.

To learn more about lung cancer, visit www.hunterdonregionalcancercenter.org.