Early Consultation With A Specialist - Key To Battle Lung Cancer!
More than 80% of lung cancer patients are diagnosed at an advanced stage. Early-stage disease symptoms are non-specific and thus patients take a lot of time before reaching an oncologist: Dr Vineet Govinda Gupta.
Lung cancer causes vague clinical presentations like constant cough, breathing difficulties, tiredness
Lung cancer is a leading cause for cancer related deaths across the globe. It's often associated with poor prognosis because of substantial delay in disease diagnosis. Unlike many other cancers, individuals suffering from lung cancer develop symptoms which are often unrelated to the actual site of cancer growth due to disseminated cancer cells to other sites.
Dr Vineet Govinda Gupta,Consultant - Medical Oncology at Artemis Hospitals (Gurugram, Haryana), says, "More than 80% of lung cancer patients are diagnosed at an advanced stage. Early-stage disease symptoms are non-specific and thus patients take a lot of time before reaching an oncologist. It is common to hear patients complain of symptoms like cough, blood in sputum and chest pain lasting months and treated by the patients with over-the-counter drugs. Due to poor knowledge among general physicians, prompt referral to oncologist is often delayed." Dr Vineet finally said, "Substantial progress has been made in lung cancer treatment, but the best prognosis cannot be achieved unless patients are diagnosed at an early stage. All individuals, especially smokers, should be educated about risk factors, early symptoms and signs associated with lung cancer and to consult a specialist for any longstanding unexplained symptoms".
Consultant – Medical Oncology at Artemis Hospitals (Gurugram, Haryana)
Lung cancer is commonly associated with vague clinical presentations like constant cough, breathing difficulties, tiredness etc. According to Dr Dileep Srinivasan, Senior Consultant - Medical Oncology at Zydus Cancer Centre (Ahmedabad, Gujarat), early symptoms of lung cancer are prolonged cough, which worsens over time. Dr Dileep said, "Lung cancer starts as unexplained cough, associated with chest pain and shortness of breath, which aggravate upon exertion. Non-specific symptoms like tiredness following simple activities, change in voice, unexplained loss of appetite and weight could also be common complaints in early stages of lung cancer. Repeated lung infections, new onset wheezing are also indicative of lung cancer". When asked about spreading of cancer, Dr Dileep mentioned "Lung cancer spreads to liver, brain, bones, etc, and presentation would vary depending upon site and extent of lung cancer spread. Patients often present with pain in the back, numbness in arms or legs, unexplained headache, abdominal pain, jaundice etc and sometimes seizures. Therefore, we screen all the lung cancer patients for distant spread of the disease right at the time of primary diagnosis to initiate optimal treatment in the appropriate time". The nature of delayed presentation, non-specific signs and symptoms, which are common to many other diseases, keeps early diagnosis of lung cancer at bay.
Lung cancer starts as unexplained cough, associated with chest pain and shortness of breath, which aggravate upon exertion.
Dr Dileep SrinivasanSenior Consultant – Medical Oncology at Zydus Cancer Centre (Ahmedabad, Gujarat)
"Not all coughs are cancer", says Dr Vivek Agarwala, Senior Consultant - Department of Medical Oncology & Hemato-Oncology at Narayana Superspeciality Hospital (Howrah, West Bengal). When we asked Dr Vivek about when a patient should consult a specialist, he said, "Four out of five lung cancer patients reach an Oncologist only around advanced stages of disease. Cough, breathing difficulties, rust coloured sputum, etc are associated with a wide variety of respiratory diseases, which needs immediate attention. Before suspecting a comparatively rare entity like lung cancer, we should rule out other potential lung conditions with similar signs & symptoms. If the physician or pulmonologists suspect lung cancer, radiological and pathological investigations should be executed without delay. Another important message to general physicians is to advice core biopsies instead of FNAC from lung masses for more accurate diagnosis with IHCs and further tests. Screening trials in Lung cancer have shown mortality reduction and low-dose CT screening needs to be advised more to the high risk population, especially smokers. Therefore, if you have any prolonged & unexplained symptoms, it is important that you see your doctor right away to identify the cause and get treated appropriately". According to Dr Vivek, if patients reach their doctors at early stages, there is a good long-term survival probability in lung cancers.
Four out of five lung cancer patients reach an Oncologist only around advanced stages of disease.
Dr Vivek AgarwalaSenior Consultant – Department of Medical Oncology & Hemato-Oncology at Narayana Superspeciality Hospital (Howrah, West Bengal)
It therefore, becomes essential for patients and general physicians to be vigilant to identify the disease at early stages and help the patients win the battle against lung cancer.
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