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Lung cancer: dangers and prevention

Jul 16. 2018
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By The Nation

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The Thai Society of Clinical Oncology recently is setting out to increase awareness of the dangers of lung cancer – the most common form of cancer worldwide, and number one cause of death from cancer in Thailand – with an initiative dubbed “Lung Live: live report from your chest”.

The event, which will take place on August 1 to mark World Lung Cancer Day, is designed to build knowledge through interactive exhibitions showcasing the health of lungs, possible threats to the lungs and facts about lung cancer. Oncologists will share knowledge on how to overcome lung cancer while celebrities, among them Dr Lalana Kongtoranin, Dr Angwara Teeratantikanon, Teeradetch “Alek” Metawarayut, Ireal Trisarnsri, founder of ART .for. Cancer and Dr. Prakaitip Susilparat, founder of the Facebook page “momfightcancer” will also be sharing their experience and tips on staying healthy. 

Dr Virote Sriuranpong, president of the Thai Society of Clinical Oncology said: “Lung cancer is the most common form of cancer globally. In 2015, 1.7 million people were diagnosed worldwide. In Thailand, lung cancer is the second most common form after liver cancer. It is also the number one cause of death from cancer, with more than 17,600 lives claimed in 2015, and approximately 20,000 new patients diagnosed every year. The mortality rate of lung cancer patients is still as high as 40 per cent. Some patients don’t manifest any symptoms and, when they are finally diagnosed, the cancer is already metastatic. Unless the patients receive proper medical attention, they can potentially die within six months.

“Smoking is the key risk factor for lung cancer. Smokers have 10-30 times greater risk of lung cancer, especially if they have been smoking for a long period of time. Despite all the campaigns to convince people to quit smoking, the number of lung cancer patients still hasn’t declined. This is due to other factors including prolonged exposure to toxic chemicals, smoke from cigarettes (second-hand smoking), radiation, types of dust, vapors and metals. Genetic risk factors also play a role and people with family or relatives with lung cancer have a higher chance of lung cancer even though they don’t smoke,” he added.

Asst. Prof. Thanyanan Reungwetwattana, medical oncologist at Ramathibodi Hospital, said: “Lung cancer patients display different symptoms depending on where the cancerous cells are in the body. In most cases, symptoms include persistent cough, chest pain, shortness of breath. For others, if the cancer has developed brain metastases or leptomeningeal disease, there might be symptoms related to the central nervous system, such as weakness or numbness in the limbs, bowel control problems while some may experience extreme pain in the bones if the cancer cells have already spread to the bones.

“With today’s medical advancements both in terms of diagnosis and prognosis, lung cancer is not as threatening as it used to be. There are now more options to treating it. For patients in the early stages, surgical resection is the most effective approach. Surgical techniques are now very advanced, allowing for a faster recovery. For patients in later stages, chemotherapy is a more suitable treatment. Many new types of chemotherapy with fewer side effects have been developed while new medicines that minimise the side effects of chemotherapy are now highly effective. Apart from these well-known types of treatment, Targeted Therapy is a medication-based new treatment, which works by affecting and destroying only the cancerous cells. This type of treatment is especially effective in patients with cancer cells with mutations in EGFR and ALK genes, which are key to cancer cell growth. Studies show that the Targeted Therapy can effectively control lung cancer and has less intense side effects than chemotherapy. Additionally, a group of new medicines, which can stimulate the immune system to fight cancer, are now available,” he continued.

“Lung cancer is like any other chronic illness that can be medically treated. Severe symptoms may require a higher dosage or different medicines. Once the symptoms subside, the medication can be decreased or stopped. However, the most important factor that can help cancer patients – also key to making sure Thai people are not prone to lung cancer – is always taking care of one’s health by exercising, eating the five food groups and quitting smoking for your own health and the health of those around you. If you notice any signs or symptoms, it is advised that you seek medical attention early on, to receive timely and effective treatment. Lung cancer can be cured if diagnosed at its early stages,” Dr Thanyanan concluded.


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