‘I couldn’t have been healthier, but it still got its tentacles around my lung’ – Gillian Ryan.

Breakthrough Cancer Research is calling for increased investment into lung cancer research, emphasising the critical need to address the leading cause of cancer deaths for both men and women in Ireland, and worldwide. Gillian Ryan, a 42-year-old mother of two from Cork, shares her personal story to highlight the importance of this work.

‘Friday, November 12, 2021, will always be the day I died and was reborn. It was the day I went into a room alone and was given the news I had lung cancer. I couldn’t have been healthier, but it still got its tentacles around my lung,’ Gillian Ryan recalls.

Lung cancer claims a life every 18 seconds globally, making it a crucial priority for Breakthrough Cancer Research. Despite being young, fit, and a non-smoker, Gillian was diagnosed with lung cancer, shattering the misconception that this disease only affects smokers or older individuals.

‘I never expected it. I was a busy mother of two teenagers and working full-time. I was big into fitness, going to the gym three times a week and running or walking most evenings. I was diagnosed 10 days after my 40th birthday.’

There is only a 24% chance of survival of lung cancer past 5 years, which felt like an expiration date to Gillian.

‘Treatment started straight away. Surgery was my only option so I had a right lobectomy and some lymph nodes removed. Recovery was horrendous, but I got through it with the support of family and friends. I still have trouble breathing but I’m alive and that’s all that matters. And that’s why I’m so passionate about cancer research. I would love it if Lung Cancer got as much recognition and funding as other cancers. There’s a stigma because it’s associated with smoking, but that’s not always the case – and it certainly wasn’t in mine.’

Gillian’s story underscores the urgent need for research and support for people with lung cancer. Breakthrough Cancer Research is at the forefront, funding innovative projects aimed at understanding and treating this devastating disease.

Gillian continued, ‘Breakthrough Cancer Research is leading the way to find cures for 100% of cancers. They are the lifeline for cancer patients – like me – who depend on innovative treatments and cures. The single best thing we can do is support this charity and the critical research they’re funding now.’

Orla Dolan, CEO of Breakthrough Cancer Research said, ‘Breakthrough Cancer Research’s priorities include increasing research investment into poor prognosis cancers, integrating cancer research into clinical care, funding the development of new therapies, and harnessing big data to improve detection and personalised treatment.’

Current research projects in lung cancer funded by Breakthrough Cancer Research include:

  1. Understanding Chemotherapy Resistance: How blood vessel growth in non-small cell lung cancer affects chemotherapy resistance.
  2. RNA Molecules and Treatment Outcomes: The role of long non-coding RNAs in non-small cell lung cancer progression and treatment.
  3. Early Detection of Recurrence: Using genetic markers in breath to predict lung cancer recurrence.

Breakthrough Cancer Research is also urging people to be aware of the symptoms of Lung Cancer, as early intervention can significantly impact outcomes.

Common symptoms of lung cancer include:
– A New cough
– Changing cough
– Breathlessness
– Coughing up blood
– Chest pain
– Chest infections
– Appetite loss
– Persistent tiredness
– Unexplained weight loss.

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