According to health experts, the increasing incidence of lung cancer among non-smokers has become a matter of concern in the country. To raise awareness about lung cancer, August 1 every year is observed as World Lung Cancer Day.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), lung cancer is prevalent and more people succumb to the deadly disease than from colon, breast, and liver cancers combined.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of male cancer-related deaths in more than 25 countries. With the upward trend, experts are expressing fears. Talking to IANS, Dr Nitin Yashas, Consultant - Medical Oncology and Hemato-Oncology, Manipal Hospital Sarjapur, explained that there has been an increase in lung cancer cases among non-smokers.
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While smoking continues to be an important cause, indoor and outdoor pollution and also second hand exposure to smoke have been considered as significant factors. A majority of the lung cancers present in an advanced stage 4 disease with poor long term survival outcomes.
Quoting globocan 2020 data, Yashas said that lung cancer is one of the top five occurring cancers in the country with an estimated approximately 75,000 new cases.
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Most patients with lung cancer are diagnosed in the age group of 50-70 years, he said. Globocan stands for the Global Cancer Observatory, an interactive web-based platform presenting global cancer statistics. “However, with the advent of genomic sequencing of tumours, there are a lot of newer treatment approaches available.”
"Lung cancers, particularly in non- smokers are driven by certain genetic mutations for which we offer targeted therapy in the form of oral tablets which shows good responses and prolonged survival," he said. Dr Nitin Yashas further explained that immunotherapy, wherein the body's immune mechanism is activated to fight cancer cells, has revolutionised the treatment of lung cancer and is often given in combination with chemotherapy, resulting in long survival times in a subset of patients and is now being evaluated for its efficacy in earlier stages also.
According to Dr Sandeep Nayak P, Director - Department of Surgical Oncology and Robotic and Laparoscopic Surgery, Fortis Hospitals, Bengaluru, lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer related death in India.
The reason is that most lung cancers are diagnosed very late. Lung cancer in early stages does not produce any symptoms or may produce symptoms that are confused with allergies, simple coughs, etc. It is also important to note that more than 70 per cent of lung cancers happen in smokers, he says.
Dr Sandeep Nayak explains: "We know that smokers are the most vulnerable for lung cancer and we also know that a screening CT scan of lung done every once in a year for heavy smokers can pick up lung cancers early enough to prevent death due to lung cancer."
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This was a result of a recent research study. The screening CT scan is a low dose scan and can pick up lung cancer very early saving many lives, he adds. Surgery has remained the main treatment for lung cancer when it is curable.
Surgeries have moved from macabre surgeries to very subtle over the years, both in extent and approach. There was a time when the entire lung had to be removed in order to remove lung cancer, Dr. Nayak says.
"With the emergence of robotic surgery and fluorescence technology today we are able to remove only a small segment of lung which bears tumours, sparing the rest of the healthy lung. This has become possible because of the extensive research that has happened in the recent past."