By KAYCEE REYES
Coughing. Wheezing. Chest pains. Fatigue. Wala lung ba yan? Lung cancer happens more often than you think. In fact, it is one of the most common cancers and the most common cause of cancer death worldwide in 2018, according to the World Health Organization. In the country, the trend is almost the same, with lung cancer being the second type of cancer (after breast cancer) that has been the most diagnosed during the previous year. So no, it’s not just wala lung.
The good news is, public awareness and early diagnosis can prevent further deaths from this disease, and just in time for Lung Cancer Awareness Month that falls in November, a media briefing was held at the Grand Hyatt Manila in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig. The event, titled #NoExcusesForLungCancer, aims to spread information about the disease and encourage individuals to have regular check-ups and screenings, especially those with symptoms that may seem harmless such as a persistent cough, shortness of breath, and fatigue.
Lung cancer, like any other type of cancer, begins when normal cells start having mutations and multiply rapidly to form a tumor. These cancer cells may then spread to other parts of the body, called metastasis. Dr. Anna Marie Pascual-Panganiban, MD, FPCP, FPSMO, discussed the symptoms, risk factors, screening, and diagnosis for lung cancer during the media briefing.
The symptoms for lung cancer are a lasting cough, blood in the mucus, chest pains, shortness of breath, hoarseness, weight loss, pneumonia, and difficulty to swallow.
Risk factors include having a prior history or having a family history of lung cancer, as well as exposure to radon, coal smoke, asbestos, diesel fumes, and other carcinogens, and of course, smoking that remains to the biggest risk. However, not all tumors are cancerous, this is why it is important to be screened regularly. An annual, low-dose CT scan is an effective tool for screening lung cancer.
And if there are findings, a biopsy must be performed to confirm if the tumor is malignant. Dr. Panganiban suggests a regular screening for individuals ages 55 to 77 years old, with a history of heavy smoking (30 or more packyears), and is still currently smoking or quit smoking less than 15 years ago.
She also encourages individuals who are 50 years and above, with a history of 20-pack years of smoking, and exposed to other lung cancer risk factors to be screened as well.
#NoExcusesForLungCancer wants us Filipinos to choose to be aware, to be conscious of our health, and to share what we know. Having a family history of lung cancer or of any disease is not an automatic life sentence. Genetics do play a part, but one’s lifestyle is a major factor as well.
Aside from eating well, staying active and quitting smoking now may greatly reduce your lung cancer risk. Moreover, avoiding other risk factors such as second-hand smoke and inhaling carcinogens are as beneficial. Lastly, don’t treat symptoms as wala lang, before it’s too late.