In conjunction of Lung Cancer Awareness Month, The Health meets HUKM’s top respiratory experts
Lung cancer is extremely lethal. It has the lowest survival rate of cancer types and has been known to cause the most cancer death worldwide in an average of 1.8 million annual deaths.
Lung cancer is deadly. It contributes to the highest cancer death worldwide; with an average of 1.8million deaths annually. Therefore, it has the lowest survival rate among all types of cancer.
The statistic of lung cancer has reached an alarming rate. With an increased in the number of patients diagnosed to have lung cancer, it is estimated an amount of RM 58.2 billion was spent on treatment in 2017.
Data provided by Hospital Canselor Tuanku Muhriz UKM (HCTM) shows that the highest age group falls in within the range of 41 – 70 years old.
The data also states that they have received more male patients are reported to have lung cancer than women at the ratio of 64.7 per cent and 35.3 per cent respectively.
In HCTM, patients with lung cancer generally falls between 41 to 70-years of age. It is seen predominantly in males (64.7 per cent) compare to only 35.3 per cent of females.
According to Dr Andrea Ban Yu-Lin (HTCM’s Consultant Respiratory Physician and Head of Respiratory Unit):
“Lung cancer can be divided into non-small cell lung cancer and small-cell lung cancer. Current treatments include chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and targeted therapy. Curative treatment via surgical resection may be an option for patients who are diagnosed with early stage of lung cancer (stages 1 and 2).”
Technology has made a huge advancement in the last few decades. Some treatments are made available to help detect and diagnose cancer more effectively.
Within the last few decades, emergence of new diagnostic tools has help clinicians to detect and diagnose lung cancer earlier.
“There has been a lot of advancement made in terms of treatment and diagnosis of lung cancer. The new and improved medical diagnostic equipment has enable us to obtain a more accurate and precise results,” according to Dr Su Choon Ian, Pulmonologist of HTCM.
“However, the cost of treatment, especially oral – have always been expensive. The majority of the patients are unable to bear the cost of treatment,” Dr Nik Nuratiqah, the Respiratory Fellow of the team chimes in.
“Ideally, the treatment should be made accessible and affordable to all. Support groups for lung cancer patients could be an approach to help patients cope with their condition.”
“Treating lung cancer can be extremely challenging. The cost involved with the newer treatment options is extremely high. It is beyond the affordability of the majority of our patients. We hope that support groups or non-governmental organizations can come forward to assist this patients.”
The National Cancer Registry for 2007-2011 (published October 2016) revealed a staggering 90 per cent of lung cancer cases being diagnosed at stage three (locally advanced) or stage four (metastatic spread).
Dr Ng Boon Hau, Respiratory Fellow at HCTM explains: “Lung cancer may present with a variety of symptoms. Patients with early stage of lung cancer can be asymptomatic. Others may be experiencing episodes of chronic cough which are occasionally ignored by patients.”
Other symptoms include weight loss, loss of appetite, coughing out blood (haemoptysis), non-resolving fever, and breathlessness.
These symptoms generally are late manifestation of the disease.
Coming out of the smoke
Smoking and second-hand smoking are proven to be the leading cause of lung cancer. Study shows a growth in female smokers and this increases the risk of lung cancer.
One of the efforts from the government to address to this issue is enforcing non-smoking zones at all eateries nationwide.Dr Andrea explains: “This is an important first-step to reduce the risk of cigarette smoking related diseases. Passive smoking can also increase the risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease as well as lung cancer.”
Vapour over smoke?
Vaping or electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) have indirectly led to an increase in smoking among school children. It is agreed that vaping is not a smoking cessation tool.
As of November 2012, vaping has led to the report of approximately 3000 cases of vaping use associated lung injury (EVALI).
“The contents of vaping appear to harm the airway more than nicotine and causes airway inflammation. In addition, there are no solid evidence to prove that vaping reduces the risk of lung cancer in smokers.
There isn’t any long-term safety data on vaping. Most importantly, there is also a lack of a standardised regulation on the content and device of e-cigarettes,” says Dr Andrea.
Be mindful of our breathing
Everyone should alert their healthcare providers if they suffer from prolonged coughing, breathing difficulties, or even chest discomfort as these symptoms could be indicators of lung cancer.
“We always say this, and will never cease to tell the public about this. If you have been coughing a lot for more than a month, or experiencing any difficulty in breathing, you should get yourself checked. Finding cancer at an earlier stage provides better outcome of treatment. Therefore, we should always be mindful of our health.” — The Health