Lung Cancer

CANCER is one of the leading causes of death worldwide with a staggering 8.2 million deaths in 2012. Health experts warn that annual cancer cases will rise from 14 million to 22 million within the next two decades.

Globally, the most common cause of cancer death is lung cancer (1.59 million deaths) followed by liver (745,000), stomach (723,000), colorectal (694,000), breast (521,000) and oesophagel (400,000).

In the Philippines, lung cancer is also the top cause of cancer-related deaths among men, and the third cause of cancer deaths among women, outranked by breast and cervical cancer. Health experts estimate that 10 Filipinos die of smoking-related diseases every hour. Lung cancer deaths in the Philippines numbered 8,518 in the country, according to the data published by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The age-adjusted death rate related to lung cancer is 15.46 per 100,000 of population, placing the Philippines as number 80 in the world in 2011, the WHO said.

Lung cancer has two major categories. First is the “non-small cell lung cancer” (NSCLC), which is the most common type of lung cancer. Second is the “small cell lung cancer” (SCLC), which is estimated to be about 20 percent of all cases of lung cancer.

It is also possible for a lung cancer case to be diagnosed as combined NSCLC and SCLC. This type of lung cancer is called “mixed small cell/large cell cancer.”

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that an increasing number of deaths can be attributed to lung cancer than to any other type of cancer. Annually, lung cancer accounts for more deaths than those from breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers combined, the agency said.

Different people manifest a wide array of lung cancer symptoms. There are cases where patients did not show any symptoms at all.

The common symptoms are shortness of breath, coughing and intermittent wheezing that does not go away, coughing up blood, chest pain, fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, and weight loss.

In the late stages of lung cancer, the following may be observed: bone pain or tenderness, eyelid drooping, facial paralysis, hoarseness or changing voice, pain at joints, nail problems, shoulder pain, swallowing difficulty, swelling of the face or arms, and weakness.

Any individual can potentially develop lung cancer. However, because of their lifestyle choices, environmental exposures, and family history, certain groups of people can be considered high risk for lung cancer.

An estimated 90 percent of lung cancers are linked to cigarette smoking, making smoking the number one or leading cause of lung cancer.

Current smokers or those who have smoked in the past are 10 to 20 times more likely to develop lung cancer. Second-hand smoke also can cause lung cancer.

Every year in the US, approximately 38,000 non-smokers die as a result of exposure to second-hand smoke, the CDC said.

Exposure to certain chemicals and substances commonly found in homes, offices, and places of work increases the risks for lung cancer.

For example, the radon gas, an odorless and colorless chemical found in rocks and dirt, can become trapped in homes or office buildings and is known to cause cancer.

Asbestos, arsenic, and some forms of chromium and silica are also known to increase an individual’s risk for developing lung cancer.

Factors such as one’s family history and genetics may also play a role in the development of disease. A person whose parents or siblings have had lung cancer has high risks of getting the disease.

There are ways of preventing lung cancer.

Smoking cessation significantly decreases a person’s risk of developing the disease. It must be emphasized that quitting smoking has immediate and long-term benefits, such as reducing the risk of diseases associated with smoking and improving overall health.

Avoiding second-hand smoke also can help prevent lung cancer.

If possible, an individual must limit his or her exposure to chemicals such as radon and other known carcinogens. Homes and offices should be tested for radon and other carcinogens, too.

Among the challenges of dealing with and managing lung cancer is this. Lung cancer is often diagnosed or found when an X-ray examination or a CT scan is done for other medical condition or purpose.

Among the tests to diagnose lung cancer are bone scan, chest X-ray, complete blood count, CT scan of the chest, MRI of the chest, positron emission tomography (PET) scan, sputum test to look for cancer cells, and thoracentesis or the sampling of fluid build-up around the lung.

Biopsy, or the removal of a piece of tissue from the lungs for examination under a microscope, maybe be done in some cases.

More imaging tests are done to determine the “stage” of the cancer if the biopsy is positive for cancer cells. Cancer “stage” refers to the size tumor and how far it has spread. “Staging” helps medical professionals in their treatment of lung cancer while follow-up consultation enables patients to have an idea or understand their condition.

Lung cancer treatment and management is dependent on its type and its stage, or how advanced it is.

Surgery is an option and may be done when the cancer has not spread beyond the nearby lymph nodes. Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells and stop new cells from growing.

Radiation therapy uses powerful X-rays or other forms of radiation to kill cancer cells. Lung cancer treatments listed above can be done alone or in combination.

Meanwhile, targeted cancer therapies are drugs or other substances that block the growth and spread of cancer by interfering with specific molecules (“molecular targets”) that are involved in the growth, progression, and spread of cancer.

The National Cancer Institute explained that targeted therapies differ from standard chemotherapy in several ways.

In a report, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America said that biopharma research companies are testing 981 medicines and vaccines to fight the many types of cancer, including lung, affecting millions of patients worldwide. All of the medicines are either in clinical trials or awaiting review by the US Food and Drug Administration.

source: Business World