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Retired physician advocates for lung cancer awareness

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November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month and Delaware Township, N.J., resident Dr. Lidia Vitale is passionate about spreading her story and 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.

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

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

Vitale added, “I never smoked and always thought lung cancer in nonsmokers was rare, but I unfortunately learned that is not the case.” Other risk factors include exposure to radon gas, secondhand smoke, asbestos, radiation, certain organic chemicals, air pollution, diesel exhaust and certain metals (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,” Vitale said. “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. 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 from 3 to 6 p.m. Sunday, No. 10. Fifty percent of the proceeds will support the two lung cancer foundations noted above. To register, visit paintpartystudio.com.

A shopping event at both Sage and Attachments will be held 5 to 8 p.m. Nov. 20, with 20 percent of proceeds being donated to the two foundations.

Shop-Rite of Hunterdon County will be donating refreshments for both events.

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


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