Lung cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in Singapore – being the second and third most common among both men and women, respectively. It occurs when there is an uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the lungs. As the cancer cells continue to grow, they can inhibit the normal functions of the lungs. They can also spread to other areas of the body, such as the lymph glands around the airway, brain, liver, bones, and the other lung.
If left untreated, lung cancer can be deadly. In Singapore, it is the top cause of cancer deaths among men, and second among women. As common as this severe disease is, there remains a significant number of misconceptions surrounding it. These misconceptions can lead to a potential delay in diagnosis, which has an extremely crucial effect on clinical outcomes.
Here are 4 common misconceptions of lung cancer you should know about.
1. Only smokers get lung cancer
While smoking greatly increases your risk of lung cancer, you can still get the disease even if you don’t smoke. About 15 per cent of lung cancer patients have never smoked throughout their lives.
There are numerous other environmental factors aside from smoking, such as secondhand smoke, air pollution, and gene mutations, that also contribute to your lung cancer risk. Occupational hazards such as working in a foundry also put you at a higher risk.
2. Lung cancer is a death sentence
Although lung cancer is a leading cause of cancer deaths among men and women in Singapore, it is still treatable – which not only extends one’s life, but also lessen some of the cancer symptoms as well. The overall five-year survival rate for men with lung cancer is 10 per cent, and 17 per cent for women. According to figures of the Singapore Cancer Registry, women with Stage 1 lung cancer have a five-year survival rate of almost 70 per cent.
Unlike other forms of cancer such as breast cancer, where you can feel a lump during a self-examination, lung cancer is more difficult to detect in its early stages. Your lungs have very few nerve endings, which means a tumour can grow without causing any pain, discomfort or other symptoms, until they have spread further. Thus, it’s important to stay up to date with your health screenings, so you can detect any issues and receive a treatment plan from a lung cancer specialist if necessary.
3. Lung cancer only affects those above 60
Like with most cancers, lung cancer is more commonly seen in older adults. But it can also affect young adults and even children. One type of lung cancer, known as bronchioloalveolar cancer (BAC), is increasing among young women who do not smoke.
Lung cancers that occur in young people are often driven by a single cancer-causing mutation to one gene, rather than tobacco use. Because of this myth, young people are more likely to ignore symptoms and delay screening. However, respiratory symptoms should always be taken seriously, regardless of age.
4. Quitting smoking doesn’t help if I already have lung cancer
There are a number of good reasons to stop smoking after getting a diagnosis of lung cancer. Kicking the habit can make treatment more effective and increase the chances of having a successful surgery. A recent study also shows that quitting smoking can reduce the mortality rate of non-small cell lung cancer by 25 per cent.
Even after surviving lung cancer, continuing to smoke increases your risk of recurring lung cancer or even developing other forms of cancer. Smoking increases your risk of numerous types of cancers, such as mouth, throat, kidney, pancreas, and bladder cancer. As such, stopping the use of tobacco products is highly beneficial to your health, with or without an existing cancer diagnosis.
Being informed about lung cancer is important so that you can differentiate facts from myths. Regardless, it’s crucial that you’re aware of your lung cancer risks, and you stay up to date on your health screenings. Early detection is key to raising your chances of successful treatment and survival.
At International Cancer Specialists, we provide cancer screening tests and cancer treatment for the lung, breast, colon, and more. To book an appointment at our cancer treatment centre, feel free to get in touch with us via our 24/7 hotline, email, or WhatsApp.