World Lung Cancer Day is earmarked on August 1 every year with an aim to combat the occurrence of lung cancer globally. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) lung cancer is highly prevalent across the globe and the leading cause of cancer deaths among men and women than colon, breast, and liver cancers combined. This health event emphasises that people learn about the risk factors of the disease and stresses the importance of prompt detection through lung cancer screening.
Lung cancer is the most fatal cancer and around 1.8 million people die each year, and this number is peaking. The prevalence of lung cancer is attributed to several risk factors including passive exposure to diesel fumes, workplace carcinogens, radon, asbestos, and biomass fuels, but smoking tobacco is the key risk factor and accounts for over 70% of cases.
The survival rates of lung cancer vary remarkably, with about 1 in 3 living for at least one-year post diagnosis and 1 in 20 past ten years. The chance of survival increases if lung cancer is diagnosed at an early stage. However, if left untreated cancer spreads to other vital organs and 5-year survival is only around 13%, whereas advanced-stage lung cancer is incurable.
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This health campaign also aims to elucidate to the populace about symptoms and screening available. Some of the symptoms include a change in mucus, chest, or back pain, coughing up blood, and difficulty swallowing. Chest X-rays, CT and PET scans, bronchoscopy and needle biopsy are some of the diagnostic tests suggested confirming lung cancer. A person who smokes or is a former smoker and age over 55, maybe the right one for a low-dose CT scan screening that may help early diagnosis of lung cancer. With advanced treatment options, survival rates are improving, and this health day constantly works towards better outcomes.
Screening is a key measure to prevent lung cancer, as certain research bodies reveal that if 8 million people at a higher risk of lung cancer get screened, then we would be able to save around 25,000 lives.
Lung Cancer Screening
Who Should Be Screened For Lung Cancer?
Screening means testing for a health condition when there are no evident signs and symptoms or history of that disease. Generally, doctors suggest a screening test to find an ailment at an early stage and this may help better the treatment outcome.
The only recommended screening test for lung cancer by a health care provider is low-dose computed tomography (also called a low-dose CT scan, or LDCT). During an LDCT scan, a person is made to lie on a table and an X-ray machine uses a minimal dose of radiation to produce a detailed image of the lungs. This scan takes a few minutes to complete, and it is not painful.
Yearly lung cancer screening with LDCT is recommended for people who:
- Have a chronic smoking history of more than 20 years pack
- Smoking currently or have quit smoking within the past 15 years
- Between 50 and 80 years of age
- A pack year means smoking an average of one pack of cigarettes per day for one year
Risk of Screening
A lung cancer screening has at least three minimum risks:
- This test can suggest that an individual has lung cancer when no cancer is present, and it is called a false-positive result. Also, false-positive results can lead to further follow-up procedures and surgeries that are not required and may have more risks
- A lung cancer screening test can determine cancer cases that have never caused an issue for the patient. This is called overdiagnosis and it can also lead to treatment that is not essential
- At times radiation from recurrent LDCT scans can cause cancer in an otherwise healthy person
Thus, lung cancer screening is only recommended for adults who are at high risk for developing ailment due to their smoking history and age and who do not have any health concern that potentially affects their life expectancy or their readiness to have surgery, if required.
If you are thinking to get screened, first talk to your doctor. If your healthcare provider suspects screening is appropriate for you, then the person is referred to high-quality screening.
The best possible way to lower your risk of lung cancer is to quit smoking and prevent second-hand smoke, as lung cancer screening is not an alternative to quitting smoking.
When Should Screening Stop?
Healthcare recommends lung cancer screening be stopped when the person being screened—
- Turns 81 years old
- Has not smoked in 15 years or more
- Develops a health problem that makes a person reluctant or unable to have surgery if lung cancer is found