ATLANTA -- Samantha Mixon looks and feels great,butshe is fighting stage four lung cancer and all the assumptions that people make about her disease.
"The first thing they ask is, 'Did you smoke?' It's annoying at this point," Mixon told 11Alive's Jennifer Leslie.
She's a non-smoker with no family history and only 33 years old.
She was diagnosed in November at Piedmont Henry Hospital after complaining of migraines. Turns out, she had a tumor that formed when the lung cancer metastasized to the brain.
"Telling my daughter was the hardest part about it," Mixon said. "How do you tell her your mommy's odds are not very good for five years, its one of the hardest things I've ever had to do."
Mixon is part of a troubling trend, according to Piedmont Atlanta thoracic surgeon Dr. Saeid Khansarinia.
"We're seeing more and more lung cancer in people who don't smoke, especially women," Dr. Khansarinia said.
Dr. Khansarinia said no one really knows why, but he saidnew targeted chemotherapy drugs are working well for younger, nonsmoking women.
"They seem to have much better success in controlling the disease and putting some of our patients even into remission," he added.
Mixon and her 8-year-old daughter Karley still struggle with statistics that show a very low survival rate.
But the new drugs are making a difference, and Mixon is determined to do her part to raise awareness.
"It can happen to anyone," she said."It's not a smoker's disease anymore."
For more information about lung cancer, Piedmont Healthcarehas a list of symptoms, risk factors and treatment options.
Lung canceris the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women.
Lung cancer usually does not cause symptoms when it first develops, but symptoms often become present after the tumor begins growing. A cough is the most common symptom of lung cancer.
Other symptoms include: constant chest pain, shortness of breath, wheezing, recurring lung infections, such as pneumonia or bronchitis, bloody or rust-colored sputum and hoarseness.
A tumor that presses on large blood vessels near the lung can cause swelling of the neck and face.
A tumor that presses on certain nerves near the lung can cause pain and weakness in the shoulder, arm, or hand.