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Lung Cancer Day: Early Detection & Insights from Leading Experts

Mumbai (Maharashtra) [India], August 1: On this Lung Cancer Day, these top oncologists’ experts have shared their expertise to raise awareness among people about the significance of early detection of cancer through cancer screening and maintaining healthy habits.

Dr. Irfan Bashir, MBBS, DNB, Senior Consultant and Head Radiation Oncology Batra Hospital, New Delhi 

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death, with thousands of new cases diagnosed every year in India. The incidence of lung cancer has increased several folds, particularly in women. People who smoke or are exposed to secondhand smoke are at greatest risk of developing lung cancer. India is the second-largest tobacco consumer, with estimates suggesting approx. 28% of the population uses tobacco in some form. Lung cancer often produces signs and symptoms in the late stage, thus delaying diagnosis. Signs and symptoms include a recurring cough, coughing up blood, difficulty breathing, and weight loss, which is often misdiagnosed as TB. In the era of personalized medicine, treatment includes surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy, which is decided based on multiple factors. There is no sure way to prevent lung cancer, but one can reduce the risk by avoiding smoking, adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle, and exercising.

Dr. Chinna Babu Sunkavalli, Clinical Director & Surgical Oncologist- Yashoda Hospital, Hyderabad

Lung cancer is one of the most common cancers in India and accounts for more than 70,000 cases per year. Hence, it is associated with a significant number of lives lost every year due to cancer. The most well-known risk factors are smoking, exposure to asbestos, second-hand smoke, radon gas, and exposure to radiation. In spite of increased cancer awareness over the years, 70% of patients present with advanced stages at presentation, which are associated with poor survival. Therefore, early cancer screening is the only method by which lung cancer can be detected early in its asymptomatic stages. Smokers are at higher risk of lung cancer than non-smokers. Current smokers, people who have stopped smoking in the last 15 years, or those who have smoked for more than 20 pack years should undergo screening for lung cancer by low-dose CT scan for an early diagnosis of lung cancer. Many lung cancers have been incidentally diagnosed during the COVID pandemic with the increased use of CT scans, reinforcing the utility of low-dose CT scans in the evaluation of lung cancers.

Dr. Amit P Gawnde, Consultant Interventional Pulmonologist, Founder – The Lung Health Centre Sujay Hospital, Mumbai

Lung cancer, a leading cause of cancer deaths in India, has seen significant treatment advancements that offer hope to patients and their families, improving both survival rates and quality of life. One key breakthrough lies in targeted therapies, which focus on specific genetic mutations or proteins unique to cancer cells, resulting in increased effectiveness and survival in certain lung cancer subtypes. Additionally, immunotherapy has revolutionized lung cancer treatment by leveraging the body’s immune system to recognize and combat cancer cells. Drugs like checkpoint inhibitors have demonstrated remarkable results, especially in cases where conventional treatments had limited efficacy. Moreover, surgical advancements such as VATS and robotic-assisted surgery have made it possible to remove cancerous tissues with reduced invasiveness, leading to less patient discomfort, quicker recovery, and better treatment outcomes. Lastly, cutting-edge radiotherapy techniques like SBRT and proton therapy have emerged as precise and effective methods for delivering targeted radiation to lung tumors while sparing healthy tissues from damage. Though challenges remain, the unwavering efforts of researchers, healthcare professionals, and advocacy groups bring hope for a future where lung cancer becomes a more manageable and curable condition.

Dr. Sonam Solanki, MBBS, DNB Pulmonary Medicine, PDDM, EDARM  (Europe), Obv in Interventional Pulmonology, Consultant Pulmonologist and Bronchoscopist – INICIO Chest Clinic, Mumbai

Lung cancer has historically been associated with tobacco smoking; however, non-smokers can also be affected due to environmental factors or genetic predisposition. Early diagnosis of lung cancer is crucial, as studies indicate that patients have better survival rates when diagnosed at an early stage. Symptoms of lung cancer can vary, ranging from specific lung-related symptoms like cough, blood in sputum, and breathlessness, to more generalized signs such as weight loss, fatigue, and frequent respiratory infections. For high-risk individuals, a low-dose chest CT scan is recommended as a screening tool, as it can detect small-sized tumors that may be missed by a chest X-ray. Over the years, genetic testing and immunotherapy treatments for lung cancers have advanced significantly, making the diagnosis and treatment more precise. Although the costs have increased, the treatments also have fewer side effects. To reduce the risk of lung cancer, it is essential to encourage smoking cessation and minimize exposure to second-hand smoke and environmental carcinogens. These preventive measures can play a significant role in lowering the likelihood of developing lung cancer.

Dr. Ronak Vyas, MS, Mch (Surgical Oncology), FMAS Cancer Surgeon, Airavat Cancer Care, Ahmedabad

Lung cancer’s significant impact on global cancer-related deaths, including in India, emphasizes the critical role of early detection as a game-changer in the fight against this formidable disease. As a cancer specialist, I stress the vital importance of identifying lung cancer in its initial stages, as it greatly improves treatment outcomes and saves lives. Early-stage lung cancer often lacks symptoms, making screening essential, especially for high-risk individuals like smokers and those exposed to environmental pollutants. Regular Low Dose CT scans enable the detection of potential malignancies before they spread. Timely diagnosis opens doors to more effective treatment options, including advanced surgical.

Dr. Bharat Ashok Vaswani, MD (General Medicine), DM (Medical Oncology), MRCP- UK (Medical Oncology) ECMO, PDCR, Senior Medical Oncologist & Hematologist – Yashoda Hospital, Secunderabad

Lung cancer is the most common cancer in the world and ranks as the most prevalent cancer among males in Metropolitan cities in India. Alarmingly, over 3/4th of newly diagnosed lung cancer cases are detected at advanced stages, making early diagnosis crucial. To aid in the early detection of this deadly disease, a yearly low-dose CT Thorax is recommended for individuals between 50 to 80 years of age, with a smoking history of 20 pack years. The management of lung cancer has witnessed significant progress, with personalized cancer therapy emerging as a game-changer. Targeted therapy, based on molecular alterations, along with immunotherapy and their combination with chemotherapy, have substantially improved overall survival rates. Molecular testing is now mandatory for all newly diagnosed lung cancer patients to determine the most effective treatment approach. However, the most effective way to combat this devastating disease remains prevention. By avoiding the consumption of tobacco and tobacco-related products, we can significantly reduce the incidence of lung cancer. As the saying goes, “Prevention is better than cure”.

Dr. Sanjay Gabhale, MBBS, MD (Respiratory Medicine), IDCCM, Consultant Pulmonologist & Intensivist, Shivneri Hospital, Bhosari, Asst. Prof. Dr. D Y Patil Medical College Hospital, Pune

Lung cancer is the fourth most common cancer, accounting for 8.1% of all cancer deaths in India. It has significant morbidity and mortality due to late presentation to healthcare facilities. Data from various studies suggest that cases were mostly diagnosed in the late 50s and above with a male gender predilection, amongst which approximately 80% were smokers. This suggests disease is preventable by quitting smoking and curable if screened for at-risk individuals. Early detection of suspicious cases with advanced imaging like LDCT, PET-CT, and Interventional bronchoscopic techniques are game changers. Once considered an impenetrable disease with limited options, it has made a significant stride in treatment. From a generalized approach of using chemo-radiotherapy, we have come a long way to targeted therapies, immunotherapy, and a personalized treatment plan for each individual.

Dr. Rahul Bahot, Consultant Intensivist & Chest Physician, HCG Cancer Centre, Mumbai

The beginning of lung cancer is almost asymptomatic, and 85% of the patients are diagnosed at an advanced stage. Their average 5-year survival rate is only 19% despite the advances made in radiation therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and molecular targeted therapy. On close inspection of these patients, we find that the outcomes of lung cancer treatment depend greatly upon the clinical stage of the cancer at the time of diagnosis. The 5-year survival rates of lung cancer patients vary from 75% at stage I to <10% at stage IV. This difference in survival rate is because, at the earliest stages, lung cancer is smaller in size and has not spread to distant organs. In the initial stages, radical surgery helps increase the five-year survival rate of patients by 20% to 30%. This makes early detection of lung cancer of prime importance.

Dr. S Kumar, MBBS, DCH, MD (Pediatrics), DM (Chest + Respiratory), International Postgraduate Pediatric Certificate (Australia), Child Specialist & Bronchoscopist, Gurgaon

Lung cancer kills more people per year than any other form of Cancer. Early detection is the key to increasing survival rates for patients with lung cancer. Early detection can be challenging as common symptoms such as shortness of breath, unexplained weight loss, and persistent cough usually don’t appear until the disease is progressed. Screening guidelines for high-risk individuals include those aged 50 to 80 years, current smokers, or those who quit within 15 years, and individuals with a tobacco or smoking history of at least 20 packs per year. Identifying lung cancer early through targeted screening for at-risk individuals is crucial in the fight against this devastating disease.

Dr. Pradeep Kumar Karumanchi, MBBS (Osm), DNB (Radiation Oncology), ECFMG (USA), CCPT (USA), CTO (USA), CPO (SWISS), Consultant Radiation Oncologist, Yashoda Hospital, Hyderabad

Radiosurgery: Cutting-Edge Advancement in Lung Cancer”

Lung cancer remains one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths worldwide. In the fight against this formidable disease, radiosurgery has emerged as a promising treatment modality offering new hope to patients. It is a non-invasive technique that delivers highly targeted, high-dose radiation to cancerous lung tumors. This focused approach not only spares healthy surrounding tissues but also enhances treatment effectiveness by delivering a lethal dose directly to the tumor. Furthermore, the convenience and reduced treatment time make radiosurgery an attractive option for patients, particularly those with early-stage lung cancer or who are unsuitable for surgery. Research indicates that radiosurgery achieves excellent local control rates and comparable survival outcomes to surgery. Radiosurgery is steadily establishing itself as a vital component in the multidisciplinary management of lung cancer, offering new possibilities for improved patient outcomes and a brighter future in the fight against this deadly disease.

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