Malaysian statistics show cancer as the second highest cause of deaths, with the Malaysia National Cancer Registry Report 2012 to 2016 showing trachea, bronchus and lung cancers as the third most common cancers in Malaysia and comprising 9.8% of the total cancer cases recorded. Breast cancer takes the first spot at 19.0%, followed by colorectal cancer at 13.5%.

 

Malaysian Director-general of Health, Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, said the report was compiled to monitor the trend of cases and the burden of cancer in Malaysia for a period of 10 years.

 

Dr Noor Hisham made this statement in early January this year, and went on to say, “With a high number of deaths caused by cancer, the latest information on cancer burden in the population is much needed.”

 

“The findings are worrying because the Malaysian Study on Cancer Survival published last October showed that the later the cancer is detected, the lower the survival rate is. As such, the cooperation of various parties are needed to identify how this can be improved to increase the society’s awareness level and access to early screening and treatment.”

 

The report shows cancer from an ethnic perspective was more prevalent among the Chinese, sequentially followed by Malays and Indians.

 

Trachea, bronchus and lung cancers were the second most common cancer among males and fifth among females, with a higher incidence in males and started to peak at 60 years old.

 

Lung cancer forms in the tissues of the lung, usually in the cells lining air passages. Two main types of lung cancer are small-cell lung cancer (SCLC) and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). They are different in nature and treatments are different, with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) being the majority of all cases.

 

About 30 percent of NSCLC usually starts in the cells that line the outer part of the lungs. Another 30 percent of NSCLC begins in cells lining the respiratory tract.

 

NSCLC is not aggressive and may not invade surrounding tissue. But there are faster growing types of NSCLC like large-cell carcinoma and large-cell neuroendocrine tumors which may require immediate treatment, depending on the condition of the individual.

 

Small-cell lung cancer is an aggressive form of lung cancer as it grows and spreads faster than NSCLC.

 

Some lung cancer patients have both NSCLC and SCLC cells.

 

Symptoms of lung cancer

In some cases, lung cancer does not display outward symptoms and may only be discovered during a chest x-ray or scan.

 

Symptoms of both NSCLC and SCLC are basically the same and may include:

 

  • trouble breathing / wheezing
  • persistent coughing that worsens over time
  • blood in sputum expelled from coughing
  • hoarse voice
  • difficulty in swallowing
  • swelling in the face or veins in the neck
  • chest discomfort or pain when breathing, laughing or coughing
  • loss of appetite for unknown reasons, leading to weight loss
  • fatigue and weakness

 

If you do display any of the above symptoms, do consult your doctor early to put to rest any fears on lung cancer that you may have. Early consultation also means treatment can be started earlier, with better chances of recovery.

 

As the cancer spreads, there will be additional symptoms depending on where new tumors are discovered.  Tumors can normally be found specific areas in the body with the following symptoms:

 

  • bones – bone pain particularly in the back, ribs or hips
  • brain or spine – causing headache, vertigo (balance issues or dizziness), or numbness in the extremities (arms or legs)
  • liver – jaundice, where the skin and eyes turn yellow
  • lymph nodes – lumps, specifically in the neck or collarbone area

 

Horner syndrome is when tumors located at the top of the lungs affect facial nerves causing an eyelid to droop, shoulder pain or a lack of perspiration affecting a side of the face. Tumors in the lungs that press on large veins can cause swelling of the arms, upper chest, face or neck.

 

Paraneoplastic syndrome is caused by a chemical created by lung cancer that is similar to hormones. This causes an array of other symptoms, e.g., disruption to blood sugar levels, elevated blood pressure, seizures and even put a patient into a coma.

 

Research has found 90 percent of lung cancer cases are directly related to smoking. Your lungs can repair the initial damage of smoke, but continuous exposure to smoke causes irreversible damage to lung cells.

 

As we know, damaged cells start to behave abnormally and mutate, which is where cancer starts.

 

Treatment

As lung cancer does not have obvious symptoms in early stages, it is often diagnosed after it has spread. Survival rates for any type of cancer depends on early detection, diagnosis and treatment.

 

There are clinical trials for promising new treatments. An oncologist will be the correct professional to discuss lung cancer and the correct course of treatment for the individual.

 

This article is to provide general information on lung cancer, the third most common cancer in Malaysia. It is in no way intended to be taken as medical advice. Readers should consult a doctor or oncologist for further information.

By Aaron
5th August 19:30 2020

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