FEDERAL CAPITAL (ANDigital) Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death worldwide and in our country, where it accounts for 15% of cancer deaths in the general population, exceeding colon cancer and cervical cancer and exceeded only for breast cancer in the female population.
This high figure refers to the fact that most cases are diagnosed in advanced stages, as early as 20% of cases with treatment chances have been detected in the early stages.
Who can develop it?
This disease affects more men and large smokers; but in the last few years we have witnessed a progressive change in the characteristics of the patient population.
Although male smokers still represent the majority of patients, there is an increased proportion of women who suffer from lung cancer, and many of them have not smoked and are not younger.
In any case, the main cause of this type of cancer continues to smoke, but at least 25% of cases occur in non-smokers due to factors such as exposure to passive smoking, wood smoke, asbestos and certain oncogenic viruses. Patients over 55 years of age, smokers or secondarily exposed to tobacco smoke or combustion of organic compounds are considered a higher risk of lung cancer. Those who had other types of cancer, those with family members who had cancer, and carriers of chronic lung diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), also show an increased risk of lung cancer.
What are the symptoms and how is it diagnosed?
In cases when it is clinically manifest, it represents cough, blood secretion, air and chest pain. It can be detected as a random finding on X-ray or tomography of the chest, in the form of a nodule or pulmonary mass.
In order to arrive at a definitive diagnosis, a biopsy is required, which is an analysis of the affected tissue part. This study is conducted by a medical pathologist who is responsible for determining whether there are malignant cells in the sample, and if so, identify the type of cancer that affects the patient. This step is crucial for determining the prognosis and choosing the therapy.
Among the determinations of the pathological laboratory is the discovery of molecular markers, which are tests that require the presence of some genes or proteins altered in cancer cells that participate in an oncogenic mechanism and which may be the target of therapy, mainly in advanced stage patients.
In recent years, there has been a greater understanding of mechanisms that produce disease, but also its genetic and molecular basis, which has led experts to better describe each case and thus adjust the treatment of each patient. It is a heterogeneous disease, that is, patients can present differences in their genetic profiles, in their clinical presentation, and therefore respond differently to available treatments.
The best strategy for reducing the possibility of developing lung cancer is to stop smoking. Those older than 55 who have a history of smoking have a higher risk of lung cancer, so it is recommended that they consult with a specialist in pneumonology to perform annual examinations and have an opportunity for early detection.
Advised: Doctor Iris D. Boieras Navarro (MN 118839)
Coordinator of the Oncology Section of Oncology of the Argentine Association of Respiratory Medicine / Pneumonology Specialist. Institute of Oncology Angel Roffo. University of Buenos Aires.