Lung cancer awareness month: Let’s dispel some common myths about the disease in this thought piece.

Lung cancer awareness month 2022: Lung cancer has become a catastrophic healthcare challenge, with more than 1 lakh new lung cancer cases predicted over the next five years. Lung cancer’s prime risk factor is cigarette smoking, which accounts for 90% of lung cancer cases. According to a World Cancer Research Fund report, lung cancer is a top cause of cancer-related deaths globally. In India, lung cancer accounts for 5.9 per cent of all cancers and is responsible for 8.1 per cent of lung cancer-related deaths, as per a WHO study. It is evident that cancer awareness and prevention is the need as India, along with many other nations, is confronting a severe cancer epidemic. Unfortunately, several myths revolve around cancer which can invariably turn fatal. Despite the rapid increase in lung cancer incidence, knowledge of this malignancy is relatively low. Therefore, we must emphasise the need to dispel the numerous myths and misconceptions about cancer. Prof (Dr) Vishal Rao US, Surgical Oncologist, Member, High Power Committee on Tobacco Control, Government of Karnataka, dispels some common myths about the disease in this thought piece:

  1. The common myth is that only those who smoke will have lung cancer. However, this is not true. Smokers, pollution, second-hand smoke and those with a family history of lung cancer are also at risk. In addition, while smokers, people who have quit smoking and come under the non-smoker category are also prone to different types of lung cancer.
  2. It is a myth that hookah is harmless and doesn’t cause lung cancer. Hookah smokers may inhale more tobacco smoke than cigarette smokers because of the large volumes of smoke they inhale in one session, which can last as long as an hour.
  3. Contrary to popular perception, Secondhand smoke can also enhance the risk of causing lung cancer. Smoking directly is more harmful, but passive smoking or being in a setting where others smoke also has adverse effects. Although there is no safe exposure to secondhand smoke, few people know about this silent killer.
  4. Since smoking bidi is often portrayed in the popular narrative as natural and herbal, there is a common misconception that it does not cause lung cancer. It is of the utmost importance to remember that bidis are not herbal and safe and that their composition is addictive and hazardous. Multiple studies have revealed that smoking bidi increases the risk of lung, stomach, oesophagal and oral cancers.
  5. To protect people from secondhand smoke exposure, it is essential to initiate conversations about the health risks of smoking, as also the deadly effects of secondhand smoke.
  6. Some individuals assume there is no need to quit smoking after being diagnosed with lung cancer. Still, the truth is that quitting smoking can significantly increase a patient’s chances of living and recovering. Patients can boost their survival prospects by 30 to 40 per cent by stopping smoking at the time of cancer diagnosis. If you quit smoking, your chances of responding to cancer therapy are more significant than if you continue smoking. It enhances the quality of life in addition to increasing longevity. In addition to lowering the side effects of cancer therapies, quitting smoking before surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation can minimize the risk of acquiring second cancer or a cancer recurrence.
  7. Some believe that light or mild cigarettes are less harmful to their health. However, light or mild cigarettes may end up being more dangerous than regular cigarettes due to the tendency of smokers to drag out the duration of their smoking.
  8. Some believe advanced lung cancer is incurable, but effective treatments for advanced lung cancer are now widely available. In particular, lung cancer survival rates have increased since 2009, and lung cancer death rates have decreased dramatically over the past 30 years. As a result of advances in treatment, including immunotherapy and targeted therapy medicines recently approved by the FDA, lung cancer has been treated more effectively. Previously, lung cancer was considered to have five actionable oncogenes, which could be treated with a targeted therapy pill. It is good news for lung cancer patients and their families that the development of therapeutic therapies is accelerating rapidly. Various approved treatments are now available for nine driver mutations that account for about half of lung adenocarcinomas.
  9. It was considered that there was no technique to detect lung cancer before symptoms appeared. Screening for lung cancer is accessible and recommended for those at high risk. Cancer screening checks detect tiny tumours that have not yet begun to spread or produce symptoms. For smokers aged 50 to 80 with a 20-pack-year history who smoke presently or have quit within the last 15 years, it is recommended that they undergo an annual low-dose computed tomography scan as part of a lung cancer screening program. Lung cancer screening aids in the early detection of cancer in high-risk population groups. Catching cancer early gives us the best chance of intervening and providing a cure.

To deal with cancer myths, palliative care services can help patients and their families understand cancer misconceptions and help them cope with them. To establish a link between healthcare professionals and the community, trained social workers and health workers must communicate effectively. In addition, it is essential to increase public awareness and inform citizens of their Right to Health (protected by Article 21 of the Indian Constitution) and their right to a smoke-free environment. They must demand clean air and an ecosystem where toxins from cigarettes, bidis, and other smokeless tobacco have not been contaminated. | Lung cancer awareness month

Also read | Hypoxia: Mysterious Cases Where Oxygen Levels Might Drop Without Symptoms

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