You are currently viewing I was diagnosed with stage 3 lung cancer at 28 having never smoked… here are the warning signs young people need to know
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When Aurora Lucas started feeling chest pain in August 2021 she initially brushed it off as stress. 

She was busy. She had recently moved to Chicago to start a new teaching job and was in the second year of her doctorate program. But when the pain didn’t go away, and she developed a cough, fatigue and back pain, she went to the ER. 

She never imagined she’d receive the diagnosis that eventually came three months after that first hospital visit.  It was advanced lung cancer — at 28 years-old. Aurora had never smoked.

It took tests conducted by three different doctors to arrive at the correct conclusion, with two dismissing her symptoms as the result of a lung infection. 

‘Doctors over and over and over again, were doing everything else and suspecting everything else except the word cancer,’ Aurora, now 31, said in a video posted to her TikTok channel.

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Mrs Lucas was diagnosed with lung cancer when she was just 28 years old. She had to give up teaching in order to get better, but was able to continue pursuing her Doctor of Education degree. Now, at 31, she is entering the dissertation phase of the program

Now, as she recovers from treatment, she wants to raise awareness of the signs of the disease, and remind others that no one is immune — no matter their age. 

‘The scary thing is, this is a hidden disease, you know it doesn’t get diagnosed until much later until stage three or four and usually its pretty aggressive,’ Aurora said.

Aurora’s story comes amid a global increase in early-onset cancers, with growing numbers of patients being diagnosed under 50.  

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Early onset cancer of all forms have risen by 79 percent from 1990 to 2019 globally, according to an analysis published in the journal BMJ Oncology.

Though these rates are surging most in colorectal and breast cancer, some measures suggest that under age 40 lung cancer cases are on the rise too.

Over the past few decades, lung cancer rates have dropped in almost all demographics, except for people younger than 40. 

Only 1.4 percent of all people with lung cancer are diagnosed under 35 years old, roughly 3000 Americans.

However, when the disease does hit young people, it is often diagnosed at later stages when treatments are less effective.  

By the time Aurora’s cancer was spotted, the cancer had spread lymph nodes, and was classified as stage three. 

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About 37 percent of those diagnosed with lung cancer at this stage live for five years after their diagnosis. 

The symptoms began in August 2021. They included chest pain, persistent coughing and back pain. She also developed fatigue that was so severe that she had to stop driving, fearing falling asleep at the wheel. 

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‘Those were huge signs that I  thought was just stress as a 28 year old,’ she said.  

She made an appointment to see her primary care doctor shortly after. He told her she looked great and recommended she eat some honey for her cough. 

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About a week later, her chest pain hadn’t subsided, so she went to the hospital, where she was diagnosed with a rare condition that affects the way the heart is wired, called wolf parkinson’s white syndrome.

At this point, doctors took a scan of her chest, and saw ‘a haze’ that they thought maybe was an infection or tuberculosis.

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But her insurance wouldn’t cover further testing, so doctors sent her home. Three weeks later, she returned to the emergency room because the coughing was getting worse, and she could hardly talk. 

She had to ‘beg’ the nurse to let her perform further testing, offering to pay for the expensive scans since insurance wouldn’t cover it, Aurora shared on a podcast called Patient from Hell

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The nurse performed a biopsy, which came back inconclusive, and she was sent back home. 

Finally, on December 1st 2021, her insurance changed, and she went to a new doctor who flagged her case as urgent, sending her for a barrage of testing. 

Within five days she had been diagnosed with lung cancer. 

‘So many doctors were in denial that this was actually lung cancer,’ she said. 

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This came as a shock to her and her family, she had never smoked, and though her grandmother developed the disease, it wasn’t until she was in her 60’s.

She was recommended two rounds of chemotherapy and 30 days of radiation. 

That initial stage concluded in February 2022, and she was shortly thereafter put on a medication that was tailored to treat her particular type of cancer. 

She was told by her doctors that the unnamed oral therapy, which she’s still taking today, is like a ‘cancer police’. 

She gets scanned every three months to make sure the cancer hasn’t progressed. 

At any point, the medication could stop keeping her cancer in check, and she could find out that her cancer is back, she said.

Despite that looming concern, she leads an active busy life. She’s now entering the dissertation phase of her doctorate, and spends time travelling with family while performing patient advocacy online. 

On TikTok, she answers questions viewers have about lung cancer and explains the importance of regular screening, since for many people, symptoms don’t begin until the disease is very advanced. 

Especially for young people, Mrs Lucas said: ”it’s super important to get screened and get checked and be connected with your body.’ 

Daily Mail UK

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