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Walter “Walt” Disney was born on December 5, 1901 in Chicago, Illinois. He was one of five children born to Elias Disney and Flora Call Disney. As a family, the Disneys moved to Missouri, where Walt spent most of his childhood. Even from a young age, Walt showed as interest in art, selling drawings to neighbors to make extra money. Eventually Walt studied art and photography while attending McKinley High School in Chicago. As Walt grew up, so did his appreciation for nature and wildlife.
Walt eventually started a small company called Laugh-O-Grams which fell bankrupt. Disney decided to continue to pursue his dreams and moved out to Hollywood. On July 13, 1925 Walt married one of his first employees, Lillian Bounds. Later on in life they had two children.
From 1937 on, Walt’s success in the commercial art and film industries increased. Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves managed to rake in an unprecedented $1,499,000 during the depths of the Great Depression. During the next five years, Walt Disney Studios completed other full-length animated classics such as Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo, and Bambi.
Walt Disney was diagnosed with lung cancer in November of 1966. He died on December 15, 1966 at the age of 65 after going into cardiac arrest following lung cancer surgery.
"When I’m dead I don’t want a funeral. I want people to remember me alive." --Walt Disney

The Offender—Lung Cancer
Lung cancer can start in the lining of the bronchi, which are the two tubes that the trachea branches off into, or in other parts of the lung. These changes are neither a mass nor a tumor, and therefore cannot be seen on an x-ray and they are asymptomatic. Eventually, the cancer makes chemicals that cause new blood vessels to form nearby. The newly formed blood vessels feed the cancer cells and allow for the formation of a tumor. Lung cancer is often fatal because metastasis can often occur before the cancer is detected. There are two main types of lung cancer: Small Cell and Non-small cell lung cancer. In very rare cases, there can be a mixture of the two, known as Mixed Small Cell/Large Cell cancer.

  • Symptoms are often unnoticeable among 25% of patients
o First noticed in x-rays or CT scans
  • Small, coin-shaped tumor
  • Symptoms include:
o Coughing
o Shortness of breath
o Chest pain
o Hemoptysis (coughing up blood)
o Weight loss/fatigue
o Depression/mood changes
o Elevate levels of calcium in the bloodstream due to oversecretion of cortisol
o Invasion of esophagus:
§ Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing)
o Invasion of nerves:
§ Pancoast’s syndrome (shoulder pain)
§ Paralysis of vocal chords
o Invasion of bone:
§ Pain at sites of bone involvement
o Invasion of brain:
§ Blurred vision
§ Headaches
§ Seizures
§ Weakness/loss of sensation in parts of the body
  • Causes include:
o Tobacco smoke
o Radon (radioactive gas from uranium, present in some soil)
o Asbestos
o Diesel exhaust
o Family history
o Arsenic in drinking water
o Air pollution


Within the United States, lung cancer is the leading type of cancer that causes death among both men and women. The single most influential cause of lung cancer is excessive exposure to tobacco smoke, whether firsthand or secondhand. General indoor and outdoor pollutants such as radon, smoke fumes, or the like also strongly attribute to this disease. Lung cancer has been researched for less than 50 years, so not all causes of the cancer are known. However, investigation is currently being undertaken as to the correlation between lung cancer and diet.

  • The majority of people who were diagnosed with lung cancer from 2004-2008 were between the ages of 65 and 74 years old (median age of diagnosis: 70)

  • The majority of people who died of lung cancer from 2004-2008 were between the ages of 65 and 84 years old (median age of death: 71)

  • An estimated 1 in 14 people will be diagnosed with lung cancer at some point in their lives.

  • As of 2007, over 200,000 people in the United States alone were diagnosed with lung cancer

  • Almost 160,000 of these people lost their battle

  • As of 2007, lung cancer has accounted for 15% of all cancer diagnoses and 28% of all deaths due to cancer

  • Generally affects more men than women

  • American women mortality from this disease has increased 550% since 1950

    • Due to a decline in number of smokers

  • 90% of people diagnosed with lung cancer are or were smokers

  • Male smokers 23 times more likely to acquire lung cancer than non-smoking men

  • Female smokers 13 times more likely to acquire lung cancer than non-smokers

Hope for People with Lung Cancer
From 1995-2002, the survival rate of lung cancer patients was around 15 percent. The lung cancer survival rate depends on many factors, including the stage of lung cancer, the type of lung cancer, whether there are symptoms such as coughing or trouble breathing, the patient’s overall general health, and whether the lung cancer is a new diagnosis or if it has been previously in remission.
It was estimated that 222,520 men and women would be diagnosed with lung and bronchus cancer and that 157,300 of them would die of it in 2010.
Incidence Rates by Race
Men, per 100,000
Women, per 100,000
All Races
Asian/Pacific Islander
American Indian/Alaska Native

More people die of lung cancer as opposed to any other type of cancer. The five-year survival rate is as low as 15%, which is exceedingly low, especially when compared to other cancers such as breast cancer (which is at a relatively high rate of 87%). One of the main reasons that this is so is because that, typically, the disease is only identified during the final stages of the cancer, when it has already spread throughout the body. The best way to prevent this terrible fate and dramatically increase your chances for survival is to regularly visit the doctor for checkups, especially so if you have a family history of lung cancer or were/are a smoker. If you are diagnosed with this cancer, you are not fully hopeless – even more so if the disease is detected early. Recent advancements in forms of treatment have greatly impacted the chance of survival, such as the use of brachytherapy, new combinations of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, targeted therapy, and connects between radiation therapy and the prevention of brain tumors.

Treatments can involve the surgical removal of the cancer, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy. The decision of which treatment to go with is made while taking into account the location and extent of the tumor, as well as the overall general health of the patient.
About 10-35% of lung cancers can be removed surgically, but there is always the chance that the cancer has already spread, meaning that surgical removal might not offer a complete cure. Surgical removal is usually only offered to cancer patients whose cancer is still in the early stages of development. Surgical removal of the tumor is a better option for patients with Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer, and is not often performed on patients with Small Cell Lung Cancer because these tumors are less likely to be localized to one area that can be easily removed.
Radiation therapy can be used as a method of treatment if the patient refuses surgery, the tumor has spread or developed inn area that would be possible to remove surgically, or if the patient has other health issues that could complicate the surgery. Radiation therapy kills dividing cancer cells using high-energy X-rays or some other type of radiation. It is an option for both patients with NSCLC and SCLC. Different intensities of radiation can be used from patient to patient to fit the different intentions of the therapy. In some cases, radiation therapy is meant to be curative, meaning it is meant to kill the cancer all together and would take a higher dose of radiation. In other cases, it is only meant to be palliative, meaning that it would limit the amount of pain and suffering that the patient endures, which would require a lower dose. Radiation does not have the same major risks that surgery can sometimes entail, but has been known to have unpleasant side effects, such as fatigue, loss of energy, nauseam vomiting, or diarrhea. Patients can also have a reduced white blood cell count and low platelet levels, which increases the risk of infection or excessive bleeding.
Like radiation therapy, Chemotherapy can also be used to treat both NSCLC and SCLC patients. Chemotherapy is the administration of drugs, either in the form of pills or intravenously, that stop the growth of the cancer cells in the body by killing the cells or preventing them from dividing. Chemotherapy is the best choice in the treatment of patients with SCLC because these tumors are generally widespread throughout the body when they are diagnosed, making surgical removal almost impossible. Chemotherapy has been known to increase the survival time up to four or fivefold in SCLC patients. Throughout the cycle of medication associated with Chemotherapy, the drugs also target and attack healthy, normally dividing cells, which can cause blood clotting, bruising, fatigue, weight loss, hair loss, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and mouth sores.

Why Walt?
Walt Disney had been, for many years, a heavy smoker. It was hinted at by his heavy smoker’s cough that his diagnosis was imminent. Walt Disney entered St. Joseph Hospital in Burbank, California on November 2, 1966. His only complaints were of a pain in his neck and back. Upon having an X-ray done, it was revealed that his left lung was riddled with tumors the size of walnuts” and he was advised to have the lung surgically removed, which he went through with four days later. Walt’s death spurred the creation of the Walt Disney Memorial Cancer Institute at Florida Hospital. The Institute offers education, radiation therapy, medical oncology and research, as well as health care and services for patients.

The infamous Walt Disney World is the world renown tourist destination for people of all ages, from the smallest of children to the elderly wanting to bring out their inner child. After already opening Disneyland in California, he felt that he should expand on this huge success by building a bigger, more elaborate park. Although he was never alive to see its opening, many consider the building of Walt Disney World to be Disney's greatest project, and captures the true essence of the Disney franchise.


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