FEDERAL CAPITAL (Andigital) Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death worldwide and also in our country, where it accounts for 15% of deaths due to cancer in the general population, overtaking cervical and cervical cancer and overtaking only for cancer of breast in the female population.
This high figure is related to the fact that most cases are diagnosed in advanced stages since only 20% of the cases are discovered in the early stages with possibilities of curative treatment.
Who can develop it?
This disease affects more men and large smokers; but we have witnessed in recent years a progressive change in the characteristics of the patient's population.
Although male smokers still represent most patients, there is an increasing proportion of women suffering from lung cancer and, many of them, have not smoked and are 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 environmental exposure to passive smoking, firewood 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 to be at greater risk of lung cancer. Those who had other types of cancer, those with members of the family who had cancer and carriers of chronic lung diseases such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) also show a greater risk of lung cancer.
What are the symptoms and how is it diagnosed?
In cases where it manifests clinically, it presents cough, blood pressure, lack of air and chest pain. It can be discovered as an incidental finding on a chest or tomography radiograph, in the form of a nodule or pulmonary mass.
To reach a definitive diagnosis, it is necessary to perform a biopsy, which is the analysis of a portion of the affected tissue. This study is carried out by a medical pathologist, who has the responsibility to determine if there are malignant cells in the sample and, if so, to identify the type of cancer that affects the patient. This step is crucial to determine the prognosis and choose the treatment.
Among the determinations made by the pathology laboratory is the detection of molecular markers, which are evidence that they seek the presence of some genes or proteins that are altered in cancer cells that participate in the oncogenic mechanism and that can be the subject of therapy, mainly in patients with advanced stages disease
In recent years, a greater understanding has been achieved of the mechanisms that produce the disease and its genetic and molecular bases, which has led professionals to better characterize each case and thus personalize the treatment of each patient. It is a heterogeneous disease, that is, patients can come up with differences in their genetic profiles, in their clinical presentation and, therefore, respond differently to the treatments available.
The best strategy to reduce the chance of developing lung cancer is to quit smoking. Those over the age of 55 who have a history of smoking are at greater risk of lung cancer, so it is advisable to consult a pneumonia specialist to perform annual examinations and have the opportunity to detect it early.
Recommended: doctor Iris D. Boyeras Navarro (MN 118839)
Coordinator of the Section of Thoracic Oncology of the Argentina Association of Respiratory Medicine / Specialist in Pneumology. Ángel Roffo Institute of Oncology. University of Buenos Aires.