All you need to know about lung cancer
The main cause of cancer-related deaths in men, and the third most common in women, is lung cancer, a plague on public health. From the risk factors to the diagnosis and treatments, Professor Jean-François Morère, oncologist and head of department at the Avicenne Hospital in Bobigny, tells us more about this terrible disease.
Is lung cancer a widespread disease?
Professor Jean-François Morère: Lung cancer is a burden on the health service as there are 39,000 new cases each year and it is also the cause of 20% of cancer-related deaths. It is the number one cause of death among male cancer patients and the third most significant among women.
Studies of lung cancer statistics have revealed two factors which have arisen more recently. Firstly, there appears to be an increase in lung cancer in non-smokers, the cause of which is not known. Secondly, there is a notable increase in cases of lung cancer among women.
What are the risk factors associated with lung cancer?
Professor Jean-François Morère: The risk factors associated with lung cancer are well known today. The main cause is smoking, active not passive. Factors relating to work are largely ignored, even though workers may be exposed to asbestos in the air and quite possibly other toxic substances. And also, as mentioned before, there are other unknown risk factors leading to lung cancer in non-smokers.
How is lung cancer diagnosed?
Professor Jean-François Morère: Diagnosis of lung cancer is made essentially based on x-rays and endoscopy. We are trying to develop new techniques to detect the disease earlier, and while no screening exists currently, we have made a strong case for the benefits of what we call low-dose scans for heavy smokers, which are useful in certain situations for detecting cancer. A study in North America demonstrated a 20% reduction in deaths connected to lung cancer thanks to carrying out low-dose scans.
What are the symptoms of lung cancer?
Professor Jean-François Morère: Detecting it early is all the more important as the symptoms are often not that obvious and do not bother patients who are smokers. Symptoms include a cough, fatigue and sputum... all things which smokers have everyday.
What are the treatments for lung cancer?
Professor Jean-François Morère: Traditional treatments are still used for lung cancer today. We try to operate on as many tumours as possible. It is unfortunately only possible to do this in one in four patients once diagnosis has been made. The large majority of patients cannot benefit from surgery and must instead consider treatment in the form of medication.
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