About lung cancer: what you need to know
I have never smoked in my life, will I get lung cancer?
Smoking is the leading risk factor for lung cancer. The risk of lung cancer in smokers is 15 to 30 times that of non-smokers. The earlier a person starts smoking and the longer they smoke, the higher the risk of lung cancer. Once a smoker quits smoking, the risk of lung cancer decreases. The longer you quit smoking, the lower your chance of developing lung cancer.
However, one thing to understand is that even if you don’t smoke, you can still get lung cancer. Other risk factors for lung cancer include second-hand smoke inhalation, exposure to certain chemicals (such as asbestos and other carcinogens), and a family history of lung cancer.
What are the different types of lung cancer?
There are two main types of lung cancer: small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
Compared with non-small cell lung cancer, small cell lung cancer is relatively rare, and about 15% of lung cancer patients are small cell lung cancer. Almost all patients with small cell lung cancer are smokers. Small cell lung cancer is a more aggressive form of lung cancer that can quickly spread to other parts of the body. Compared with the limited stage, the survival rate of advanced small cell lung cancer is lower.
Non-small cell lung cancer is more common, with 85% of lung cancer patients belonging to this type. According to the different stages of cancer, treatment methods may include surgery, radiotherapy, or more comprehensive treatment methods, such as chemotherapy and the recent rise of targeted therapy and immunotherapy.
Do women have a lower risk of lung cancer than men?
Because there are more male smokers than female smokers, lung cancer is more common in men. But in Singapore, lung cancer is still the third most common cancer among women. About 8 out of 10 women with lung cancer have never smoked or quit smoking.
If I have a bad cough, does it mean I may have lung cancer?
Chronic cough is not necessarily a precursor to lung cancer. However, if you cough frequently, you should be checked. If you have a continuous cough for more than one month, you should go to the hospital for an examination.
Unfortunately, many cases of lung cancer are only diagnosed at an advanced stage. In addition to coughing, the typical symptoms of lung cancer include hemoptysis, shortness of breath, fatigue, loss of appetite, unexplained weight loss and chest pain.
Are there routine tests that can screen and diagnose lung cancer?
Currently, there is no method for screening tumor markers for lung cancer.
As for chest X-ray examination, there is no research data to prove its effectiveness in reducing lung cancer mortality. One thing we must remember is that the radiation produced by a chest X-ray examination is approximately equivalent to the amount of natural background radiation that a person is exposed to in a day, about 0.01 millisievert (mSv).
CT scan can also be used for early screening, but the radiation dose of a CT scan is much higher than that of a chest X-ray examination, usually reaching 4 to 7 millisieverts, and its average radiation dose is the same as the background obtained by a person in a year The amount of radiation is comparable. Low-dose CT scan radiation is relatively small.
We generally do not recommend a CT scan every year unless the person is at high risk of lung cancer (a heavy smoker or has a family history of lung cancer). Because we must weigh the benefits of yearly inspections and the radiation risks caused by excessive scanning.
Have these new treatments been successful?
Targeted therapy uses drugs to stop the growth and spread of cancer cells.
For example, the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) gene of lung cancer cells sometimes undergoes mutations, causing cancer cells to grow and divide rapidly. A drug called an epidermal growth factor receptor inhibitor can help block these signals and stop the growth of cancer cells. In addition, there are anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) inhibitors that exert their effects in the same way.
Patients taking anaplastic lymphoma kinase inhibitors can live up to 2-3 years after diagnosis without recurrence.
Immunotherapy is to kill cancer cells by strengthening the patient’s own immune system.
Cancer cells have the ability to “disguise” themselves so that they will not be recognized by our immune system. Immunotherapy will expose these tumor cells so that our immune system can fight and destroy them.
Studies have found that immunotherapy significantly improves the survival rate of lung cancer patients. For patients with stage VI lung cancer, the exciting news of immunotherapy is that patients with advanced cancer can achieve long-term good control of the disease after receiving immunotherapy.
Types of lung cancer
85% of lung cancer patients are non-small cell lung cancer. Compared with small cell lung cancer, non-small cell lung cancer is less invasive. If it can be detected early and treated in time, a complete cure may be achieved.
15% of lung cancer patients are small cell lung cancer. Almost all of these patients are smokers. This highly aggressive type of lung cancer can quickly spread to other parts of the body.
Lung cancer risk factors
The risk of lung cancer in smokers is 15-30 times that of non-smokers. Other risk factors include secondhand smoke inhalation, exposure to chemicals and carcinogens, and a family history of lung cancer.
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