According to the World Health Organization (WHO), lung cancer is the most common form of cancer globally with 2.09 million cases recorded in 2018.
Data from the Department of Health (DOH) also reveals that lung cancer is one of the most common types of cancers in the Philippines. For this reason, the DOH has prepared a comprehensive plan to reduce risks that could cause lung cancer in the Philippines through its Philippine Cancer Control Program.
If you are concerned about your health or the health of a loved one, learning more about lung cancer in the Philippines could help you prepare mentally and emotionally for the situations you may face. Being informed about the condition may also give you an added sense of security for the future decisions you may need to make.
Read on to learn more about lung cancer in the Philippines.
What is lung cancer?
Lung cancer is a condition wherein normal cells in the lungs mutate uncontrollably and transform into tumor cells. These malignant cells then begin to destroy the healthy lung tissue surrounding them. When this happens, the lungs — and any other organs that are eventually affected by these cancer cells — are hindered from functioning properly.
Types of Lung Cancer
There are 2 main types of lung cancer: Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC) and Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC). Of the two, NSCLC is more common. An estimated 80% of lung cancer cases can be categorized as NSCLC. This type of cancer generally spreads slower than SCLC.
Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer can also be broken down into 3 different types, namely:
- Adenocarcinoma – This type of NSCLC develops in the epithelial tissues that line the lungs, which is why it is often found on outer areas of the lung.
- Squamous cell carcinoma – This NSCLC is typically located in the center of the lung, close to the main air passages (bronchus).
- Large cell carcinoma – A type of NSCLC that tends to grow faster than adenocarcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas; can be found anywhere in the lung.
Meanwhile, Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC) is less common and almost always linked to people with a history of smoking cigarettes. SCLC accounts for less than 20% of the cases of lung cancer in the Philippines.
Different cancer types may require different approaches in treatment. Identifying the type of cancer a person has is crucial to determining their treatment options.
Risk Factors for Lung Cancer in the Philippines
It is common knowledge that people who smoke cigarettes and tobacco — especially those who engage in chainsmoking — run a higher risk of developing lung cancer. This fact, however, was not enough to stop 30% of Filipino adults from smoking in 2015. This prompted the government to implement the Graphic Health Warning law in an effort to reduce the potential cases of lung cancer in the Philippines.
However, even non-smokers can get lung cancer. Risk factors pertain to the elements that a person is exposed to which may increase their risks for developing a particular type of cancer.
Below are the risk factors for lung cancer that you need to watch out for.
Smoking is still the top cause of lung cancer. In fact, 90% of lung cancer cases can be linked back to a history of smoking.
DOH statistics from 2015 estimate that 3 out of 10 adults in the country are smokers. This further adds to smoking as a risk factor for lung cancer in the Philippines. Even non-smokers who breathe in secondhand or even thirdhand cigarette smoke in public and at home have increased chances of getting lung cancer.
Radon is a radioactive gas that can naturally be found in soil. Constant and prolonged exposure to this odorless gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer. You can acquire radon gas test kits from your local hardware store to determine if your home places you at risk.
Lung cancer is one of the many respiratory diseases that we can get from polluted air. Particle pollution refers to a mix of small solid and liquid particles that can get trapped in your lungs and negatively affect your health.
People who are exposed to the following hazardous chemicals at work are also at higher risk of getting lung cancer: arsenic, asbestos, cadmium, chromium, nickel, uranium, and some petroleum products.
Similar to most non-communicable diseases, genes are also a relevant risk factor for lung cancer. Having a history of lung cancer in the family may increase your chance of developing the illness as well.
Because lung cancer typically does not show any obvious symptoms during its early stages, it’s important that people who have higher risk factors remain vigilant when it comes to monitoring sudden changes in their health.
Some symptoms of lung cancer may include:
- A cough that doesn’t go away
- Ache or pain in the back, shoulder, or chest
- Bone pain
- Chest pain
- Coughing up blood
- Exhaustion or weakness
- Loss of appetite
- Recurring respiratory infections
- Shortness of breath
- Unexplained weight loss
If you experience any of these symptoms persistently, you may want to consult with your doctor.
Screening and Diagnosis of Lung Cancer in the Philippines
Screening for lung cancer in the Philippines is available in both private and public hospitals. This is a crucial and potentially life-saving process especially for those at high risk of developing the disease. Detection of lung cancer in its early stages, when the patient is often asymptomatic, may lead to easier treatment.
The Philippine Cancer Society cites a study conducted on over 53,000 men and women ages 55 to 74 who had a very high risk for lung cancer. This study compared those screened using the CT scan and those screened through an x-ray. It showed a 20% decrease in lung cancer deaths for those who were screened using the CT scan.
Should the results of your lung cancer screening confirm a malignancy, your doctor will proceed with determining the stage of your cancer. Similar to most cancers, lung cancer progresses in stages. These stages are defined by:
- The location and size of the tumor
- If the lung cancer has spread to the lymph nodes near the lung
- If the lung cancer has spread to other organs of the body
Once the type of lung cancer and the stage of its progression is identified, you should be able to move forward by discussing treatment options with your doctor.
Treatment Options for Lung Cancer in the Philippines
Getting a lung cancer diagnosis for yourself or for a loved one may feel like an insurmountable hurdle at first. If it feels like your life has been turned upside down, that’s because it has. Once you can accept this new reality, you can begin looking into the treatment options available.
Keep in mind that lung cancer is not always fatal.With the advancements in medical technology, progress has been made in treating lung cancer in the Philippines and all over the world.
The most common approaches to treating lung cancer in the Philippines are: chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery. Your oncologist may recommend one or a combination of these treatments depending on the type and progression of the tumor.
Targeted therapy is also an option for patients battling lung cancer in the Philippines. Patients undergoing targeted therapy are prescribed drugs which actively block important proteins in cancer cells in order to prevent them from growing.
Learn more about lung cancer here.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.