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Carlitos' World
by Carlos Correa

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For the last couple of months I've had the honor of meeting such brave individuals here in Southeast Iowa. They are the men and women who have battled different forms of cancers and survived.

Just recently, national health organizations and providers focused on one form of the disease to bring prevention education to various communities. During "Lung Cancer Awareness Month," many health professionals hoped to educate as many people as possible about the disease.

Until now, I have never met anyone with any form of cancer let alone someone who has beaten their sickness. My knowledge, like for most individuals, has only been from what I've seen on television or read in newspapers.

I met and talked to a doctor at a local clinic here in town, who said that 25% of the U.S. population currently smokes. That, I believed. It seems everywhere I go now (e.g. restaurants, movie theatres, cafes) there are more and more smokers taking those consequential puffs of pleasure.

In high school, I remember that most of my inner circle of friends happened to be smokers. My older sister, Monica, even introduced me to cigarettes long after I encountered them at school. She took me down near the basement and we experimented together. She lighted the first and only one we tried and each took turns smoking it. I wasn't sure I was doing it right because unlike my sister who was coughing as if she was choking, I didn't feel or react to it.

According to this health official, almost 170,000 new cases of lung cancer are diagnosed each year in the U.S., which is the reason why he believes lung cancer is the epidemic of both the 20th and 21st century. Since 1998, lung cancer has even surpassed breast cancer and is now the leading cause of death in women.

In my research I found that prostate, colon and rectum were among the leading cancer sites for Latino men and women. The almost exact same for our white counterparts. In a recent cancer report, the CDC says smoking causes one in every five deaths in the U.S., taking more than 430,000 lives each year. Those numbers are alarming and they quickly worry me because I have many friends and co-workers who all share the same common habit.

The predicament of them developing cancer is not as much worry for me than it will be for their family members and those who care about them so very much. There's nothing that I or anyone can say to change a smoker's habit. However, there are plenty of support groups and organizations out there that have helped many patients with the emotional support necessary to get through the tobacco withdrawal. There are even medications available that help decrease the cravings of tobacco use.

From what I understand, quitting smoking is a feeling that I wouldn't even begin to imagine. I've heard horror stories of friends and former clients in my public health days, who tried to quit and failed. One friend explained to me that they quit smoking after one of their family members spent years in pain before dying of lung cancer. That experience alone would be inspiration enough to quit - you know the pain and suffering. But, if not, how about the 3,000 lung cancer deaths caused by second-hand smoking?

Think about it.


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