Lung Cancer: Quitting Smoking Reduces the Risk...Detecting It Early Increases the Chance for a Cure

May 30, 2014
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide. In the US, it kills more men and women than any other cancer. In Thailand, lung cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in both men and women. Smoking is the main cause. The World Health Organization (WHO) announced May 31 as the annual World No Tobacco Day in an effort to call global attention to the health risks of tobacco use. While quitting smoking will drastically reduce the risk of lung cancer, early detection offers the best chance to cure it.

Symptoms of Lung cancer

There are usually no symptoms in the early stages of lung cancer. Most people don’t realize they have lung cancer until it has spread. The most common symptom is an unexplained cough which is unassociated with a cold. As the cancer grows, late symptoms include coughing up blood, chest pain when coughing or breathing, and chest wall pain. Once the cancer has spread to other organs such as the brain, the symptoms include weakness of the arms or down one side of the body. 

Causes of Lung cancer

Smoking is the main cause, but other risks include passive smoking, air pollution, and carcinogenic substances in the workplace. While lung cancer is also found in non-smokers, they are at a far lower risk than smokers. 

Screening of Lung cancer

Despite widespread knowledge that lung cancer is associated with smoking, many smokers only find out that they have lung cancer after it has spread and become almost impossible to cure. Screening can help doctors find lung cancer in its early stages and increase their chance of curing this otherwise fatal disease. It is therefore very important to see a doctor and be screened for lung cancer as soon as any abnormal symptoms occur, especially if you are a smoker. Presently, low dose computed tomography (CT) of the chest is used to detect lung cancer. In contrast to an ordinary chest x-ray, low dose CT is a highly sensitive and specific method. It produces 3D images from a low radiation dose and, unlike a conventional x-ray, it can detect lung cancer even when it is very small or hidden by other organs.  

Treatment for Lung cancer

The treatment of lung cancer is very effective with a cure rate of up to 90% when it is diagnosed at an early stage before it has spread. 

Prevention of Lung cancer

Because they are at the highest risk, smokers should undergo lung cancer screening every year. People exposed to passive smoke and carcinogenic substances should look out for warning signs and visit their doctor immediately if they experience any of the symptoms mentioned in this article. 
By Dr. Yongyudh Ploysongsang, Pulmonary Medicine Specialist, Bumrungrad Hospital
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