Dr Lubna Rafiqi
Anand Diagnostic Laboratory
Lung cancer is the most common cancer in men worldwide.It is responsible for nearly one in five cancer deaths worldwide. Compared to the western population the prevalence of lung cancer in India appears to be increasing.
The ironic fact is that this cancer that takes away so many lives is associated with an avoidable act which is tobacco smoking. The association between smoking and lung cancer is emphasised by the fact that lung cancer and smoking trends parallel each other. Highly developed nations where a decline in smoking is noted among men are seeing a decline in lung cancer among men. Vice-versa as more and more women are smoking, lung cancer is increasing among females. These facts highlight tobacco as a single most important factor for the development of lung cancer.Other factors associated with lung cancer are air pollution, passive smoking, asbestos exposure, radon gas exposure and genetic factors.
Passive smoking or second-hand smoking again puts the individual at a higher risk of lung cancer. By smoking not only are you putting yourself at a higher risk but others around you too at a higher risk to develop this disease.
Another factor which plays a vital role is your genes. The chances of lung cancer are higher in an individual whose first-degree relative is suffering from the disease.
Early lung cancers are silent while at later stages of the disease, persistent cough, blood in sputum, weight loss and chest pain may be experienced. In India, most patients are already in an advanced stage of disease at the time of diagnosis. Hence, there is a need for early detection using high-end tests which include radiology, sputum cytology, histopathology, immunohistochemistry and cytogenetics. These facilities are available at our centre. In addition, we also have pulmonary function tests which specifically assess your lung health.
Recently, new drugs have been developed which act against specific subtypes of lung cancer. Hence, for appropriate treatment, there is a need to diagnose the tumor appropriately. This tumor sub-typing is based on histopathological, immunohistochemical and molecular tests.
Prevention is always better than cure. This world cancer day the first step which you can take for healthier lungs is to quit smoking. It is never too late to do so. According to studies, when you quit smoking your risk of development of lung cancer also starts declining. Nicotine replacement therapy and other aids may be helpful.
The next best step would be to get yourself screened for the disease, especially if you are a smoker or have a family history of lung cancer.