All about lung cancer

SINGAPORE - Lung cancer is the second and third most common cancer in Singapore for men and women respectively.

That is according to the Singapore Cancer Registry's interim report Trends In Cancer Incidence In Singapore 2002-2006.

Lung cancer usually affects the cells lining the air passages and occurs when cells grow and divide uncontrollably such that an abnormal mass forms.

There are many types of lung cancer, with two main types being small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer. The latter has many sub-types including squamous cell and adenocarcinoma.

The most common cause of lung cancer is smoking so the disease is more prevalent among smokers.

When non-smokers suffer from lung cancer, they usually get adenocarcinoma.

Dr Ang Peng Tiam, the medical director and senior consultant in medical oncology at Parkway Cancer Centre, said: 'No one really knows why non-smokers can get lung cancer. Some blame it on air pollutants, others on radiation exposure but the most probable factor is usually genetics.'

Symptoms of adenocarcinoma are similar to that of other lung cancer and include a persistent cough, shortness of breath and blood in the sputum.

If the cancer is diagnosed at an early stage or localised, surgery is preferred. Other therapies like chemotherapy may be started after surgery to reduce the risk of recurrence and improve the cancer cure rate.

If the cancer is advanced, chemotherapy as well as radiotherapy may be used to reduce the size of the tumour before surgery.

Parts of a patient's lungs are usually removed during surgery.

After surgery, patients should exercise regularly to regain lung capacity.

This article was first published in Mind Your Body, The Straits Times.

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