Seven million people die from cancer every year, accounting for over 12 percent of deaths worldwide. In the Philippines, cancer is the third leading cause of death, or almost 10 percent of all deaths. Lung cancer is the most common form of cancer in the Philippines, with an estimated 17,000 new cases in 2017. Although much progress has been made in the treatment of lung cancer, it is still the most common cause of cancer death.
More Filipinos are now dying of lung cancer. According to the Philippine Society of Medical Oncology, lung cancer leads among the top 5 cancers leading to death in the country. Out of 100,000 Filipinos diagnosed with lung cancer, 2,500 of them die.
Lung Cancer is a malignant tumor of the lungs. The abnormal cells of the tumor multiply without order or control, and destroy the healthy lung tissue around them. There are two major types of lung cancer: small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer. Each type grows and spreads in different ways.
What causes lung cancer?
The tragedy of lung cancer is that most cases can be prevented. Smoking causes about 87 percent of lung cancer cases. Tobacco smoke has many chemicals which ar known to cause cancer. If you smoke around others, you may be risking their health too. Nonsmokers can inhale secondhand smoke and get lung cancer.
Some other causes of lung cancer:
Radon – is a colorless, odourless radioactive gas that occurs naturally in soil. It comes up through the solid and enters buildings through small gaps and cracks. If you want to test your home for radon exposure, home test kits are readily available.
Industrial Exposures – Working with certain hazardous compounds such as asbestos, uranium, arsenic and some petroleum products may cause lung cancer. If you are exposed to these materials at work, ask your health and safety advisor about how to protect yourself.
Air Pollution – Diesel exhaust, particulate matter and other air pollutants can also cause lung cancer. Although you may not be able to avoid breathing air pollution, you can be active in your community to clean up the air.
The best way to prevent lung cancer is to never start smoking, and if you are a smoker, to quit immediately.
How is lung cancer detected?
One of the reasons lung cancer is such a killer is that it is difficult to detect in its early stages. It may take years for the cancer to grow, and there are usually no symptoms at the onset of the disease. By the time the patient starts to notice symptoms, the cancer is often advanced. Researchers are working hard to develop tests that can detect lung cancer in its early stages, when it can be more successfully treated.
Some symptoms of lung cancer
A cough that does not go away and gets worse over time
Constant chest pain
Coughing up blood
Shortness of breath, or wheezing
Loss of weight and loss of appetite
Frequent lung infection, like bronchitis or pneumonia
See your lung doctor right away if you notice any of the above symptoms. He or she should ask questions about your medical background, family history, smoking history, and exposure to other cancer-causing substances. Your lung doctor may then order a series of tests to find out if you have lung cancer.
How is lung cancer treated?
If you are diagnoses with lung cancer, your lung doctor will do more tests to find out how advanced the cancer is, and whether it has spread to other parts of the body. He or she should talk to you about the results and discuss the treatment plan you need to follow.
As for treatment, your doctor may use one or more of these, depending on the type of cancer, its size, where it is in the lungs, and whether it has spread to other parts of the body. These treatments include:
Surgery – Removing the tumor, along with the diseased part of the lung, removes the cancer. If the tumor is small and has not spread outside the lungs, surgery is the best option. However, some tumors cannot be removed because of their size or location, and some patients may have other health problems that make surgery impossible.
Radiation Therapy – Powerful x-rays can be used to kill cancer cells. The radiation is aimed at the specific site of the tumor in the lungs, and kills the cancer cells only in that area. Radiation can be used before surgery to shrink the tumor. It might also be used after surgery to kill any cancer cells that may have been left behind in the lung.
Chemotherapy – Certain drugs can be used to kill cancer cells throughout the body. Chemotherapy may be used after surgery, to destroy any cancer cells still present in nearby tissue or elsewhere in the body. It is also used in more advance stages of the disease to relieve cancer symptoms. Most of these drugs are either taken as a pill, or injected directly into the bloodstream.
How does one cope with lung cancer?
A diagnosis of lung cancer is a severe blow to patients and their families. Apart from the physical challenges of the disease and its treatment, people with cancer may have worries and feelings that can make life difficult. Experts on living with serious illnesses agree that a positive outlook can improve the patient’s quality of life, and may even increase survival.
Some recommendations for coping positively with lung cancer are:
Communication – Lung cancer treatment involves many doctors, lots of new and complicated information, and many serious decisions. It is important to be able to communicate clearly with your whole health care team. Prepare questions for your doctors before your visit. Be sure that you understand what your doctors are telling you, and share your questions and concerns. Carefully follow your doctors’ orders, and let them know if you are having difficulty.
Side Effects – Cancer treatments may cause side effects like hair loss, fatigue, and vomiting. Each person reacts differently. If your side effects are really bad, or if they last longer than expected, talk to your doctors and nurses. They should be able to make suggestions to relieve these discomforts.
Seeking Social Support – Taking care of your emotional health is an important part of your cancer treatment. Family, friends, and your health care team can give you man forms of support. Ask for help with chores and errands when you are tired. Talk about your feelings when you are sad or anxious. Also, a cancer support group can give you a safe place to share with others who can relate.