Every year, the month of November is recognized as the ‘Lung Cancer Awareness Month’ to spread awareness about the disease, and to educate and encourage people all across the globe to understand the importance of lung cancer signs and symptoms, so that they can get an early diagnosis and an understanding to prevent lung cancer.
In order to delve deeper into the concept of the Lung Cancer Awareness Month, and to gauge its significance, GoaChronicle had a detailed conversation with Dr. Prabhu Prasad N.C, Head, Interventional Pulmonology and Pleural Services, Manipal Hospitals. Goa. To know more about the month, we asked a few questions to Dr. Prasad, related to lung cancer and lung cancer awareness.
What exactly is the Lung Cancer Awareness Month?
The month of November has been selected to raise awareness of the leading cancer deaths-lung cancer and to change public perception of lung cancer by raising awareness, stating the fact that anyone with lungs can get lung cancer.
Who is at risk of developing lung cancer?
Anyone can get lung cancer. Long-term exposure to environmental agents like cigarette smoke, smog or radon can put people at higher risk. Substances found at some workplaces can also increase the risk, such as asbestos, arsenic, diesel exhaust and some forms of silica and chromium. For many of these substances, the risk of getting lung cancer is even higher for those who smoke cigarettes. People who have an immediate family member who has lung cancer are also at a higher risk of developing lung cancer.
What are the symptoms of lung cancer?
Initially, there are none. Lung cancer can develop and grow in the lungs for some time before the symptoms occur. By the time most people with lung cancer have any symptoms, the disease is usually advanced. People with lung cancer might experience coughing, chest discomfort, difficulty breathing or weight loss. Because there are no symptoms of early lung cancer, people who have been cigarette smokers for years might benefit from screening for lung cancer.
What are the tests needed to confirm lung cancer?
Typically, biopsy is the only confirmatory test, either bronchoscopically or CT guidance, depending on the location of the tumour in the lungs. Special image guided bronchoscopic techniques like EBUS etc. have lately revolutionised the minimally invasive and safe way of taking biopsy compared to traditional methods available.
What are the treatment options for lung cancer?
Broadly, treatment includes surgery to remove the cancer, radiation treatment and systemic therapy or medications. The best chance for cure is with surgical removal, if possible. Recent advances in lung cancer treatment have revolutionized the field. Some lung cancers will have targets for treatment, mutations that contributed to the cancer and can be directly blocked to shrink or destroy the cancer. These newer targeted therapies are easier to take and more effective than traditional chemotherapy.
In addition, immunotherapy—a new class of treatment with drugs approved since 2015—allows the body’s immune system to recognize and fight cancer cells. More than 20 new drugs have been approved in the last two years. We have more promising treatments for lung cancer today than we ever had.
How can early screening impact lung cancer outcomes?
The impact of early screening is dramatic. Lung cancer that is diagnosed very early, at stage 1, may have an 80 to 90% chance of cure, which is why screening is so important. Even more advanced lung cancer outcomes are improving with new treatments.
What is the state of lung cancer care India?
Well, as we all know, India is the largest, most populous and diverse country in south Asia, this brings challenge in lung cancer care. Lung cancer in India has a wide variation across different parts with the highest incidence actually being reported from the north eastern states. In India, beedi continues to be the dominant form of tobacco smoking and in reference to lung cancer therapeutics, lot of the agents like targeted agents, immunotherapy are very expensive drugs and unfortunately, don’t fall under the cap of the Ayushman Bharat health scheme, but it does take care of basic diagnostic and therapeutic expenses resulting from lung cancer illness. This cap is not large enough to cover the standard treatment of lung cancer in India. However, as time goes by, more and more generics come into the market, and these treatment methods might come under the ambit of the scheme.