Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is the 2nd most common cancer in males and 3rd most common cancer in females in Singapore.

Doctor examining an X-ray for lung cancer diagnosis

Lung cancer can be prevented. By avoiding smoking or quitting smoking, the risk of developing lung cancer can be reduced. Protection from other risk factors for lung cancer such as exposure to asbestos and secondhand smoke also decreases the risk the lung cancer. The commonly used screening tests for early detection of lung cancer include chest X-ray and Sputum Cytology.

Types of Lung Cancer

The two general types of lung cancer include:

  • Small cell lung cancer also called oat cell carcinoma occurs almost exclusively in heavy smokers and is less common than non-small cell lung cancer.

  • Non-small cell lung cancers include squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma and large cell carcinoma.

Related: General Information on Lung Cancer

Risk Factors for Lung Cancer

Risk Factors for Lung Cancer Include:

  • Smoking - The risk of lung cancer increases with the number of cigarettes a person smokes each day and the number of years one has smoked. Quitting at any age can significantly lower the risk of developing lung cancer.

  • Sex - Current or former women smokers have a greater risk of lung cancer than do men who have smoked an equal amount.

  • Exposure to Secondhand Smoke - Even if a person does not smoke, the risk of lung cancer increases if there is exposure to secondhand smoke.

  • Exposure to Asbestos and Other Chemicals - Chemicals such as arsenic, chromium, nickel and tar soot at the workplace can increase the risk of developing lung cancer, especially in smokers.

  • Family history of lung cancer.

Related: Quit Smoking Tips

Symptoms of Lung Cancer

Lung cancer may not produce any symptoms in its early stages.

Signs and symptoms of lung cancer typically occur in advanced disease and these include:

  • Persistent cough

  • Coughing up blood

  • Shortness of breath

  • Chest pain

  • Wheezing

  • Hoarseness

Related: Chest Pain

Lung Cancer Tests Diagnosis 

The following tests may be used to diagnose lung cancer:

  • Imaging tests such as X-ray or a CT scan of the lungs may reveal an abnormal mass or nodule.

  • Sputum cytology involves examining the sputum (phlegm) under the microscope which can sometimes reveal the presence of lung cancer cells.

  • A biopsy involves taking a sample of abnormal cells removed in a procedure called a biopsy.

Related: No One Stands Alone, No One Walks Alone

Lung Cancer Treatment

Treatment options typically include:

  • Surgery involves removal of the lung cancer and a margin of healthy tissue.

  • Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells with one or more chemotherapy drugs.

  • Radiation therapy uses high-powered energy beams such as X-rays to kill cancer cells.

Lung Cancer Screening

Two tests have commonly been used to screen for lung cancer.

Chest X-ray

A chest x-ray is an x-ray of the organs and bones inside the chest, making a picture of the lungs and other organs in the chest.

Sputum Cytology

Sputum cytology is a procedure in which a sample of sputum (mucus that is brought up from the lungs by coughing) is viewed under a microscope to check for cancer cells.

Related: The ABCs of Health Screening

Lung Cancer Prevention

Currently, there are agents that have proven to be effective for preventing lung cancer. However several clinician based and community-based interventions show that the risk of lung cancer can be reduced by:

  • Avoiding smoking.

  • Quitting smoking. Quitting reduces the risk of lung cancer, even if one has smoked for years. Options include nicotine replacement products, medications and support groups.

  • Avoiding passive smoking. Encourage your partner/spouse or colleague who smokes to quit smoking and request him or her to smoke outside the home or work premises. Choose smoke-free zones and avoid crowded places such as bars and restaurants.

  • Avoiding exposure to toxic chemicals at the workplace by taking precautions such as wearing a face mask to prevent exposure to toxic chemicals at the workplace.

  • Eating a diet full of fruits and vegetables, drinking alcohol in moderation and exercising regularly.

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