There is a significant rise in cases of lung cancer in India. The overall five-year survival rate for lung cancer in developing countries is only five per cent. In Tamil Nadu, lung cancer is common in men and the total cases this year is close to 55,000 among which 600 cases are from Chennai.
As the Lung Cancer Awareness Month comes to an end, here are some quick tips to reduce your risk of being diagnosed with lung cancer, as told by Dr Shankar Srinivasan, consultant medical oncologist, Apollo Cancer Speciality Hospital.
GENETICS AND ENVIRONMENT
Apart from smoking cigarettes, genetics and environment can also cause cancer. People who work in the asbestos industries and in the shipping industry are at risk. On the other hand, it is difficult to find out if the person has a mutation or gene that can be checked for lung cancer unlike breast cancer. There are a few families who have high possibilities, but there is no marker. Less than five per cent of cases are genetic.
STAGES AND TREATMENT
There are four stages, the fourth being the most advanced. Close to 40 to 50 per cent of patients are diagnosed when they are at stage 3b or four. It is always better to be diagnosed at stage one where surgery is an option. But for people with cardiac or other lung problems, surgery is not possible. They turn to chemotherapy and radiation as done in stages three and four.
SCREENING TESTS AND SYMPTOMS
Regular screening tests are not needed. Tuberculosis is common in India. So, after all the expensive tests, if you don’t do something about the signs of lung cancer, then it becomes difficult. While excessive symptoms are seen at the third and fourth stage, the initial stages have few or no symptoms. The signs are picked up during routine tests undertaken due to a company policy or for visa. Apart from the common symptoms of fever, coughing, loss of weight, some rare symptoms include muscle weakness, sodium level drop and seizures.
SMOKING... AND SMOKING
First, quit smoking, more so, don’t start smoking. Filtered or unfiltered cigarette, it is harmful and the incidence rate is the same. For people who think controlled smoking is harmless, the greater problem is to actually be in control. It always starts with one or two and ends in a pack or two. Chain smoking is the most harmful as it constantly makes changes the DNA of the cell. Although it takes round three or four tries to ultimately quit smoking, the process of resuming smoking after a considerable gap can recoil the DNA matter. That also calls for danger. Tobacco smoking is increasing now which will lead to an increase in the number of cases. Talking about marijuana is difficult, because there is not much information available If it increases risk or not is unknown, yet.