Cancer, in all its forms, poses a life-threatening challenge. Despite our efforts to prevent it, the uncertain nature of life and various environmental factors can make it an elusive adversary to conquer. At its core, cancer represents the unbridled growth of body cells. While genetics may play a role in around 8% of cancer cases, a staggering 92% are attributed to non-genetic factors, such as gene modifications triggered by dietary choices, harmful radiation, and lifestyle habits.
Lung Cancer in India: A Prevalent Threat
Lung cancer is among the most prevalent cancer types in India, accounting for 6.9% of all cancer cases and 9.3% of cancer-related deaths. Shockingly, the World Health Organization reported lung cancer as the leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide in 2020, claiming the lives of 1.80 million people.
Air Pollution: A Leading Culprit
India’s battle against lung cancer faces an additional foe – air pollution. Alarmingly, 63 out of 100 polluted places on Earth belong to India, further exacerbating the lung cancer prevalence in the country. This type of cancer is mostly malignant, spreading rapidly to other parts of the body.
Rising Cases and Detection Challenges
The Indian Council of Medical Research predicts a seven-fold rise in lung cancer cases, adding to the urgency of understanding the disease and its risk factors. Detection remains a significant challenge, with lung cancer often being detected in advanced stages, hindering successful treatment outcomes.
Understanding Lung Cancer
Lung cancer occurs due to uncontrolled cell division in the lung cells, such as epithelial cells and squamous cells. This abnormal growth starts in the lungs and may spread to other vital organs, such as the brain, liver, and lymph nodes. The formation of a tumour results from the excessive growth of cancerous cells, which can metastasize to other organs.
Different Types and Stages
Lung cancer can manifest in various types, including squamous cell carcinoma, small cell lung carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, and large cell carcinoma. Distinguishing between small cell and non-small cell lung cancer involves microscopic examination. Staging determines the extent of cancer spread and guides treatment decisions, classifying lung cancer as localized, regional, or distant.
Lung Cancer Awareness: Signs and Symptoms
Early symptoms of lung cancer may not always lead to a definitive diagnosis, making timely detection a challenge. However, recognizing warning signs such as shortness of breath, hoarseness, and unexplained weight loss is essential. Other indications include wheezing, weakness, chest pain, and persistent cough with phlegm or blood.
The treatment of lung cancer depends on its type and stage. Non-small cell lung cancer patients may undergo surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, or a combination of treatments. Small cell lung cancer is typically treated with chemotherapy and radiation.
Chemotherapy involves the use of specialized medications designed to shrink or eliminate cancerous cells. These powerful agents possess anti-cancer properties and target the malignant cells in the body. Administration can be through intravenous (IV) infusion, and in some cases, adjuvant therapy may be given orally.
Radiation therapy employs high-energy rays to target and eliminate cancer cells. This treatment option is often preferred for lung cancer cases, especially when the cancer is located near vital organs like the heart, due to its ability to minimize exposure to radiation waves impacting the heart muscles.
Targeted therapy utilizes drugs that specifically inhibit the growth and spread of cancer-causing cells. These drugs can be administered in the form of oral pills or intravenous medications. Prior to starting targeted therapy, specific tests are conducted to assess whether this treatment method is suitable for the individual’s condition.
Embracing a Healthy Diet
While no specific diet guarantees lung cancer prevention, maintaining a nutritious diet is crucial for overall health during cancer treatments. Cancer survivors may face appetite loss, making it important to ensure adequate nutrient intake. Smaller, more frequent meals, digestive-soothing teas, and a high-fiber diet can be beneficial.
According to the Amercian Institute for Cancer Research, the below food items should be avoided by individuals that are diagnosed with cancer:
- Red meat
- Processed meat
- Alcoholic drinks
- Packaged food items
- Processed food items
Preventing Lung Cancer
Though no fool-proof method exists to prevent lung cancer, certain measures can significantly reduce the risk. Quitting smoking, minimizing exposure to cancer-causing chemicals, and adopting a diet rich in fruits and vegetables are prudent steps.
On this World Lung Cancer Day, let us unite in the battle against this formidable illness. Early detection, awareness, and proactive health measures are our armour in this fight. With hope as our guiding light and knowledge as our shield, we shall face the challenges ahead with determination and courage.
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