How Can You Prevent Lung Cancer?
Start with yourself.
Lung cancer is highly
preventable since most cases are tobacco-related.
Educate yourself about lung cancer, and most
importantly, how you can reduce your risk of this
cancer is the uncontrollable growth of abnormal
cells in the lung. It can spread to other parts of
the body, such as the brain, bone or liver. It is
also the most common form of cancer particularly
those aged 40 and above. And although lung cancer is
the sixth most common cancer in females, it is on
Types of lung cancer
Lung cancer is divided into two main types:
Non-small cell lung
1. The more common type of cancer, which consists of
80% of all lung cancer cases.
Tumours tend to grow and spread slowly in an orderly
progression. This means the tumour may start in the
lungs, proceed to nearby lymph nodes and eventually,
to other organs in the body.
3. Examples include adenocarcinoma, squamous cell
carcinoma and large cell carcinoma.
Small cell lung cancer
grows more rapidly and spreads to distant sites
(organs) earlier compared to non-small cell lung
Stages of lung cancer
Stage 1 & 2 (localised)
- During early stages, when the tumour is confined
to the lungs
(loco-regional) - When the tumour
has spread to nearby areas, such as the lymph nodes.
4 (metastatic) - When the tumour is
widespread, affecting other parts of the body, such
as the bone, brain or liver.
The main causes of lung cancer include:
87-90% of all cases of lung cancer are attributable
to smoking cigarettes, cigars or pipes. Harmful
substances in tobacco (carcinogens) cause damage to
cells in the lungs, which may become cancerous over
time. Factors such as age, the number of cigarettes
smoked per day and the number of years of smoking
contribute to one's risk of developing lung cancer.
Exposure to tobacco smoke in the environment, also
known as passive smoking, can increase your risk of
This may include exposure to hazardous substances
such as asbestos in the workplace.
Exposure to by-products of fossil fuels such as
diesel, has also been partially linked to lung
Symptoms and treatment of lung cancer
to a Consultant Clinical Oncologist, most cases of
lung cancer generally present few or no early
symptoms. As a result; detection is often late.
lucky few patients are diagnosed early, and usually
only through a routine assessment. Symptoms of lung
cancer vary, depending on the location of the tumour,
and may be non-specific [as listed below].
However, there are more common symptoms you can look
out for, such as:
• shortness of breath
• chest pain
• coughing up blood
• persistent hoarseness of voice
Generalised symptoms not specific to lung cancer may
• loss of appetite
• reduction of weight
• low-grade fever
• persistent feeling of thirst
• weakness in muscles.
survival of lung cancer patients depends on the
stage they are at and the treatment they are
receiving. For example, untreated Stage 4 patients
have a survival rate that ranges between 3 to 9
With treatment, a patient at Stage 1 of the disease
has a 5-year survival rate of between 50-70%. The
survival goes down to 25-40% for patients with Stage
2 of the disease, and 1% for Stage 4.
important aspect of treatment is improving patient's
quality of life. At Stage 4, the primary concern is
not curative treatment but to add quality to the
patient's remaining days. The newer drugs have
either similar or more efficacy, but at the same
time, they have minimal side effects. They can also
be administered on an outpatient basis, so that they
can spend more time at home with their family. Their
symptoms, including the lack of appetite, also
Early screening for all smokers?
to the nature of lung cancer and its late detection,
some studies are ongoing to find out if there are
screening procedures recommended to individuals who
are not showing any symptoms of the disease, but at
the highest risk for the disease - smokers.
"screening" procedures for lung cancer include:
1. lung X-ray
2. CT scan (computerised axial tomography)
3. sputum cytology (microscopic examination of cells
from a sample of mucus in the lungs)
limitation of a lung X-ray is that 20% of the lung
may be hidden from sight. By the time you see
anything off an ordinary X-ray, the tumour would be
too large and the disease may already be in a later
screening should be done at all, doctor recommends a
CT scan as it produces detailed, cross-sectional
images of the lung useful to detect a tumour at an
none of the screening procedures have really proven
their benefit. At the end of the day, it comes down
to cost effectiveness. But, for any individual who
smokes, the advice is to quit.
As smoking is related to 90% of all lung cancer
cases, the most important thing to do is, never
start smoking. If you do, stop smoking or seek help
so that you can quit.
now and then, we come across patients who are not
smokers. Each type of cancer has many causes, and
the key is to reduce your exposure to the risk
factors as much as possible.