All you need to know about Lung Cancer

Lung Cancer is one of the most prevailing cancers in India, accounting to 67,795 new cases in the country (men- 48,698, and women- 19,097), as per Globocan 2018 data. The number of cases is increasing in India and this scenario even applies to Coastal Karnataka. There is increasingly more number of new lung cancer cases detected in Mangalore primarily due to more awareness among people, thereby seeking medical care. 

It’s been observed that the majority of the cases are detected at later stages in Mangalore. The early symptoms of lung cancer are similar to other lung problems such as an infection, or long term effects of smoking like chronic bronchitis, which often causes a delay in the cancer diagnosis. Dr Sanyo P Dsouza shares a few facts about lung cancer, the symptoms and diagnosis steps. 

Facts about Lung Cancer

  • Lung cancer commonly occurs in the age group for more than 60 years, primarily seen in males more than females. It can occur even in young adults too

  • In approximately 80% of lung cancer cases, smoking tobacco (both cigarettes and beedis) is the common cause for lung cancer, however, in other cases, passive smoking, air pollution, biomass fuel that is commonly used in rural areas, and genetic predisposition are also the causes 

  • 20%- 30% of the lung cancer cases are caused due to mutations in the cell, for which specific treatments are available, called targeted therapy. These cases commonly occur in patients who are non-smokers and are relatively young

  • There are two major types of lung cancer, the most common form of lung cancer is non-small cell cancer – 85%, and the rest of the cases are small cell cancer

Symptoms of Lung Cancer

  • Chronic cough which lasts for more than 2-3 weeks

  • Blood in the sputum

  • Chest pain

  • Breathing difficulty

  • If an evaluation is not done initially, the disease can cause symptoms in other parts of the body, like headache, bone ache, pain in the abdomen, weight loss, voice changes and swelling in the neck

Lung Cancer Diagnosis Steps

  • When the patient presents with these symptoms, an X-ray test is done. If there is any abnormality observed in the lungs and there is a suspicion of cancer in the X-ray, then the physicians evaluate it further with a bronchoscopy, CT Scan or a PET scan. To confirm the abnormality, one needs to do a biopsy to confirm that it is cancer

  • The stage is labelled as per the CT Scan or PET Scan findings

  • In the early stages where achieving cure is the aim, the treatment is either by surgery or radiation, or a combination of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy

  • Stage 4 is treated with chemotherapy, targeted therapy, immunotherapy or radiation therapy depending on the clinical situation. Treatments are aimed at relieving the symptoms of cancer and improving the survival with reasonably good quality of life. Patients who have targetable mutations in their tumour can have an average survival of 3-4 years with targeted therapy. There are some patients whose tumors would respond very well to immunotherapy (about 10-15%), who too can have a long survival in years

Screening to Detect Lung Cancer

  • Low dose CT Scan can be done to detect early cancer. This is applicable for heavy smokers who have been smoking for many years or who have quit smoking in the recent past

Do’s and Don’ts

  • Quit smoking

  • Avoiding second-hand smoke

  • Avoid venturing out to polluted places 

  • Follow appropriate precautions while working in factories with toxic chemicals

  • Avoid dusty areas as it can cause breathing difficulty and may aggravate the symptoms

 

 

Dr. Sanyo P Dsouza

Consultant – Medical Oncology

Manipal Hospitals, Mangalore 

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