SALT LAKE CITY — Former Salt Lake City Mayor Deedee Corradini has been diagnosed with lung cancer.
Corradini was diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer last year in late July.
"It came as a total, total shock," Corradini said in an interview with KSL Newsradio. "I never smoked a cigarette."
Corradini requested privacy for herself and her family and said, "All I want is people's thoughts and prayers."
But the former mayor, who was instrumental in bringing the 2002 Winter Olympics to Salt Lake City, hoped that her situation might bring more awareness to the diagnosis of lung cancer for nonsmokers.
Michael Collins, chief of thoracic surgery at Intermountain Medical Center, said while smoking is a major cause of lung cancer, it is possible for nonsmokers to be diagnosed.
"In my practice in Utah, because of the traditions we have here, the majority of lung cancers I see are in patients who have never smoked," Collins said. "But that doesn't mean that they weren't exposed to smoke sometime in their lives."
Corradini is undergoing chemotherapy treatments at the Huntsman Cancer Institute and said she is grateful for the care she has received there.
She said cancer is the fight of her life, and that she is determined to beat it.
Collins said if the cancer is caught early, doctors can operate. Patients in advanced stages will be treated with chemotherapy or new targeted agents. Treatments to specific sites can be very successful, he said, but there are various factors that determine that success.
"The literature tells us that 50 percent of the lung cancer cases that come into your office for the first time are inoperable, so they're advanced cases," he said.
Collins said there are risk factors for people who haven't smoked that make them more susceptible to lung cancer. Being raised in a home where there is often secondhand smoke, or working in positions where it used to be legal to smoke such as airlines, offices or restaurants have an effect, he said.
"They probably, in those positions, received a good dose of cancer-causing agents just by being in that environment," Collins said.
Women stayed primarily in the home in earlier years may have also been subject to harmful substances as well.
"We now know that there are a number of agents within the household that now have become carcinogens," Collins said, "such as cleaning agents, toxic agents in the household."
Radon is also a risk factor for lung cancer.
"Especially in our environment because there is a significant radon problem along the Wasatch Front," Collins said. "The moms stay in the house longer, they're exposed to radon longer, and that can eventually have an effect on the genesis of lung cancer."
A family history of any kind of cancer is also a risk factor.
"Then you should kind of be suspicious of all cancers," he said.
Collins said the trick to curing lung cancer is early detection. Sometimes symptoms of blood or a cough don't appear until it is advanced, so he advises patients to be aware of risk factors they may have been exposed to, especially while growing up.
Corradini took office as mayor in 1992, and in 1995 Salt Lake City won the bid to host the 2002 Winter Olympics. Corradini was re-elected in 1995 despite questions that were raised about some business dealings.
In 2011, Corradini was selected as president of the International Women's Forum. As president of the Women's Ski Jumping USA, she was instrumental in bringing the sport to the olympics.
Contributing: Dave Cawley