Sunday, December 16, 2012

CFer Dies Of Cancer

Above my blog posts is a little box that shares any type of article or story in the news about Cystic Fibrosis and today, this one caught my eye: "Cystic Fibrosis sufferer given smoker's lungs in transplant dies of cancer...".
Unfortunately, transplant patients are at a higher risk of developing cancer after a transplant (like my friend, Joe), so that wasn't really what grabbed me about this. The part that I was startled by was the "given smoker's lungs in transplant". I just don't know what to think about this. I don't think I would want a smoker's lungs if I had to get a transplant. If I'm going to get a transplant, I don't want another set of damaged, crappy lungs - I'd want the best ones possible. But at the same time, the article makes a good point in saying that about 40% of organ donors are smokers. So if smokers weren't allowed to be organ donors, that would decrease the available donated organs by ~40%, which makes things difficult when there are so many people on the transplant list.

I don't really know where I'm going with this post because I don't really know how I feel about it. The article states that patients are more likely to live longer by getting smoker's lungs than rejecting them and waiting for another non-smoker's set to come along. I guess this just surprised me - I assumed that they wouldn't give a transplant patient smoker's lungs, but I haven't looked into the topic too much. I guess there's such a great need, that they'll take any lungs that are better than the ones the patient currently has...

They don't say for sure, in the article, if this woman developed lung cancer because of the smoker's lungs or not, but I can understand why her family, and new husband, would be so upset by her too soon death after transplant. Unfortunately the woman was not aware that she was receiving smoker's lungs going into the transplant, and her husband said that if she would have known, he thinks she would have not accepted them.

This just makes me think: How picky should you be when you're desperate for new lungs? I don't know if 'picky' is the right word... Would you reject smoker's lungs in hopes that a new, healthier set would come along? But then how much longer would you be waiting? Would you be able to live long enough for a second match? Or do you accept the smoker's lungs because they're probably better than the ones you've got right now? Should/Do hospitals have to disclose information about the donor (smoker vs nonsmoker) to the recipient?
Again, I don't know a ton about the transplant process, so I'm sorry if I seem uninformed - because I really am. This just got me thinking...


  1. Mahon & I were talking about this today as well. I have known for awhile that they transplanted smoker lungs, but I didn't know it ever happened without the patient being told! It also seems like there should be some kind of better rubric - from the article I read, that donor smoked 20 cigarettes a day, which you can only imagine would lead to higher cancer rates than someone who was a light smoker, etc.

    It's a hard call to make though, since the studies they have done clearly show that while a patient receiving donor lungs from a smoker won't live as long as one receiving donor lungs from a nonsmoker - their chances of survival are still a lot better than if they didn't get the transplant. Often when you're on the transplant list, you are in such a precarious position that you could be truly weeks away from death. Like transplant itself, it seems like such a hard call to make.

  2. I find it really sad that we have to rely on those people who have chosen to destroy their lungs in order to get a transplant. As cystic fibrosis patients, we fight everyday to keep our lungs healthy. I think it would be very difficult for me to accept a smoker's lungs for myself. I really don't know how you would go about making that decision. My heart goes out to the family of that woman who are now dealing with this. Very sad.