Lung cancer is often mistaken as a smoker’s disease, so many non-smokers take it lightly and mistakenly believe that they are not at risk. These wrong concepts about lung cancer need to be corrected to recognize its true severity. The best way to spread this knowledge is by educating the patients, caregivers and medical professionals about lung cancer.
Lung Cancer Network Malaysia (LCNM) is the first national non-commercial, non-governmental organization that brings together medical professionals in the lung cancer field, providing training and education, as well as promoting and advocating to the public and new doctors on the knowledge of lung cancer, in order to improve the treatment effect on the patients.
The LCNM website (www.lungcancer.net.my) provides educational content related to lung cancer, including prevention, screening of high-risk individuals, diagnosis, cancer staging, curative treatment, palliative care treatment and more, that is suitable for doctors or patients, and provide the public with correct medical information.
LCNM’s vision is to reduce the mortality rate of lung cancer in Malaysia, while improving the quality of life of patients and prolonging their lives. In addition, the organization also hopes to correct people’s misconceptions about lung cancer, and to enhance society’s understanding and empathy towards cancer patients.
LUNG CANCER – THE NUMBER ONE “KILLER” AMONGST MALE CANCER PATIENTS
“Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in Malaysia and the second most common cancer among Malaysian men after colorectal cancer, with an incidence rate of 15.8% amongst all cancers. Lung cancer is the fifth most common cancer among Malaysian women, with an incidence rate of 5.6%.
Although lung cancer is the second most common cancer, it is the number one “killer” amongst male cancer patients in Malaysia, close to 25%, that is, 1 out of every 4 male cancer patients die of lung cancer, and it is the number two “killer” amongst female cancer patients, with the mortality rate at 15% amongst all cancers.
The epidemiology of the disease is very important as it helps in the development of screening to accurately target the disease. From the epidemiology of lung cancer, we know that most lung cancer patients in Malaysia are diagnosed at about 60 years old, and in terms of the prevalence age, lung cancer patients under 40 years old is a minority, with a prevalence rate of only 6.2%.
Like other cancers, lung cancer has different stages, and each stage refers to the extension and spread of the cancer, but lung cancer has its own complex staging mechanism called TNM staging system. T (tumour) refers to the size and location of the tumour, N (Lymph nodes) are invading lymphoid tissues, while M (metastasis) is the spread of cancer cells to the chest, bones, kidneys, etc.
90% DIAGNOSED AT LATE-STAGE CANCER
Cancer staging is extremely important for cancer, especially lung cancer, because it determines the choice of treatment, prognosis and efficacy.
According to the tabulation of statistics for lung cancer stage 1 to stage 4, only about 11% and 10% of men and women were diagnosed with early stages of lung cancer. This is very important as detection and treatment of lung cancer in its early stages will bring about better treatment outcomes. Sadly, 89% and 91% of men and women are diagnosed in advanced stages, namely stage III primary advanced lung cancer and stage IV metastatic lung cancer.
With the advancement of radiotherapy, chemotherapy and targeted therapy, the treatment for lung cancer is getting even better and with lower toxicity, but the reality is that these treatments cannot cure lung cancer, but can only extend the life of the patient, improve their quality of life, and to prevent further spreading of the cancer. But ultimately, the patients will still lose their lives to lung cancer.
The 5-year (overall) survival rate of lung cancer is 11%, which is not much different from neighbouring countries such as Thailand or densely populated India. However, compared with other Asian countries like Japan and South Korea, there is a more significant gap. The main reason is that these countries have more advanced and improved medical equipment, and their people are more aware of the disease. The median survival time (MST) of lung cancer is 6.8 months on average. ”
GIVE TREATMENT GUIDANCE FOR LUNG CANCER PATIENTS
“Medical technologies are changing with each passing day. Besides the continuous advances in chemotherapy, the most effective lung cancer treatment currently includes targeted therapy immunotherapy and stereotactic radiosurgery. If the treatment method is correct, plus having the advantage of early detection and treatment for the patient, extending the life of the patient and improving their quality of life shouldn’t be a problem.
However, as seen in some clinical cases, some patients have successfully prolonged their lives through regular proper treatment, but turn to traditional treatment after their condition have stabilized, causing the cancer to deteriorate to an irreversible point. This shows that in the process of fighting against cancer, we not only face the challenge of battling cancer, but we also face challenges with some patients who misunderstand the intention of treatment and choosing alternative therapy without scientific backing.
The establishment of LCNM is to introduce the best, most advanced, scientific and research-based lung cancer treatment to patients, so that patients can get effective treatment. ”
X RAY RESULTS IS NORMAL BUT SYMPTOMS STILL PERSISTS. REFERRAL TO SPECIALIST AS BEST CHOICE
“We all know that the survival rate of lung cancer is low. One of the most commonly seen in clinical cases is that lung cancer patients in our country are mostly diagnosed in the late stages. Besides that, some patients will consult a few doctors including seeking traditional treatment, thus causing them to be diagnosed in later stages and for the disease to progress even further.
Usually, a patient will be recommended to do a chest X-ray examination if symptoms arise. The results of the chest X-ray examination may appear normal, but the doctor will still refer the patient to a specialist if the patient still exhibits persistent symptoms or pain.
It is necessary for all of us to know about these test procedures so that we can be referred to a specialist and receive the right treatment. Most of the time, patients do not have the knowledge in this area, hence diagnosis and treatment are delayed, lowering the chance of survival for lung cancer.
TUBERCULOSIS VS LUNG CANCER
In the UK, if a person is suspected to have lung cancer after examination, the patient must be referred to a specialist within two weeks. There is no such guide in Malaysia. Therefore, we must raise the awareness of the public. Once we start to develop symptoms or suspect that we might have lung cancer, we must consult a specialist as soon as possible.
Symptoms of lung cancer include persistent cough and chest pain. Many people think that these symptoms are tuberculosis (pulmonary tuberculosis). In fact, these symptoms may be tuberculosis or lung cancer. If the diagnosis is confirmed not to be tuberculosis, then we need to continue to the next step. We cannot just stop because it is not tuberculosis.
We encourage the public, especially the high-risk groups, to conduct regular screening tests, preferably CT scans, because CT scans can detect even the smallest tubercles or nodules, plus the test results appears fast, thus it is a good screening test for lung cancer.