Lung cancer is a daunting reality for millions of people across the globe, with smoking as its primary cause. However, it's essential to note that non-smokers are not immune with lung cancer cases occurring regardless of whether or not someone has ever smoked before. This highlights how vital it is to educate ourselves on all aspects and risk factors behind this devastating disease, along with its resulting symptoms among those who have never lit up. By being informed of all this information as well as the prevention methods and treatments available, everyone can be better equipped to fight back against a common enemy - lung cancer.
It is a common misconception that only smoking can lead to lung cancer. Non-smokers can also be affected by this disease. As a matter of fact, lung cancer in non-smokers is more common than we think, with 10-20% of people who were diagnosed with lung cancer being non-smokers. Genetics like a family history of lung cancer and exposure to environmental risk factors, such as second-hand smoke, air pollution, asbestos, and radon, can increase the risk of lung cancer in non-smokers. It is essential to understand that lung cancer can affect anyone, regardless of their smoking history.
This is why even non-smokers need to be aware of the possible signs and symptoms of lung cancer, which may include persistent coughing that worsens over time, chest pain, difficulty breathing, wheezing, coughing up blood, feeling constantly fatigued, and unexplained weight loss.
Lung cancer, or lung carcinoma is often referred to as a "silent killer" because it can develop without causing noticeable symptoms in its early stages. Unfortunately, this can make it difficult to detect the disease until it has advanced to a later stage. Because the lungs lack pain-sensing nerves, lung cancer may not cause pain until it has spread to other areas of the body. Additionally, since the lungs cannot be easily seen or felt, routine screening may not detect the disease until it has become more advanced. If you or someone you know experiences any of these symptoms, it is recommended to seek medical evaluation promptly from a lung cancer specialist in Singapore such as OncoCare, as early detection and treatment can improve the chances of successful outcomes.
If you are worried about lung cancer, or if you have a history of smoking or other risk factors, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider about the appropriate screening tests for you. The only recommended screening test for lung cancer is low-dose computed tomography (LDCT). During an LDCT scan, a low dose of radiation is used to create detailed images of your lungs. The scan is painless and only takes a few minutes to complete. For non-smokers, regular testing to detect lung cancer can involve being aware of common symptoms, such as coughing, shortness of breath, and chest pain, and seeking medical attention if these symptoms persist. In addition, regular check-ups with your healthcare provider can help detect any abnormalities or changes in lung function, which may indicate the need for further testing or evaluation.
For patients diagnosed with lung cancer, treatment options depend on the stage and severity of the disease. For early-stage lung cancer (stage 1 or stage 2), surgery may be recommended to potentially cure cancer. Surgical procedures such as lobectomy to remove a section of the lung or pneumonectomy to remove the entire lung aim for the removal of the tumour and nearby lymph nodes. In selected patients with high risk features, additional treatment maybe required for eg chemotherapy, oral targeted therapy, immunotherapy or a combination of these. Do consult your oncologist on the individual suitability of these treatments.
In cases where surgery is not possible or if the cancer has advanced, radiation therapy or chemotherapy may be recommended. Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to shrink or destroy tumours, while chemotherapy uses specially developed medication to prevent the cancer cells from growing and dividing, thereby eliminating it.
Targeted therapy is another form of treatment that blocks specific cancer-promoting processes through the use of drugs and is effective for patients whose cancer cells express certain specific abnormalities.
Immunotherapy is a newer form of lung cancer treatment that works by activating the body's immune system to recognise and destroy cancer cells. It may be used alone or in combination with chemotherapy, in suitable patients.
Lung cancer in non-smoking people is a frightening and sobering reality. It is much more common than we believe and can happen to anyone. Those with a higher risk should pay particular attention to changes in health that could potentially be related to lung cancer. As with all things health related, being proactive and seeking care from qualified professionals is a must. Don’t wait until symptoms become more serious; If you feel like something seems off or you have any concerns about your lung health, please don't hesitate in booking an appointment with OncoCare, an experienced cancer centre in Singapore today.
“Expert knowledge means better care for cancer”
Dr Tay Chee Seng
MRCP (United Kingdom)