A Primer on Lung Cancer – Lung Cancer Month


A Primer on Lung Cancer

November is the Lung Cancer Awareness Month. Lung cancer affects both men and women of any race or ethnicity. Researchers estimated that there would be 229,200 new cancer cases and 84,600 cancer deaths in Canada in 2021. Lung cancer accounts for 13% of all new cases of cancer and over 21, 000 people in Canada will die from it. Lung cancer is by far the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women, making up almost 25% of all cancer deaths1.

BioMark Diagnostics specializes in early detection of hard to detect and treat cancers, which include lung cancer, through its patented liquid biopsy assays. Such test done on a sample of blood to look for cancer biomarkers, or metabolites, from a tumor that are circulating in the blood. A liquA id biopsy may be used to help find cancer at an early stage. It may also be used to help plan treatment or to find out how well treatment is working or if cancer has come back. Early detection is essential to successful treatment and management of lung cancer. The more you know and the earlier you detect the cancer, the better your chances of survival.

The most common types of lung cancer include lung nodules, non-small cell lung cancer, small cell lung cancer and mesothelioma.

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NSCLC (Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer)

Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is the most common type of lung cancer. It’s estimated that about 85% of all lung cancer cases are NSCLC2. Most lung cancers do not cause any symptoms until they have spread, but some people with early lung cancer do have symptoms. Symptoms of this type of cancer may include a cough lasting more than 3 weeks, coughing up blood or rust colored sputum, chest pain (which may indicate lung cancer when it starts in the back), shortness of breath (dyspnea), fatigue, hoarseness or loss of voice, wheezing or other breathing noises. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms or notice the symptoms in someone close to you, visit your doctor immediately.

Cigarette Smoking

Brief history of tobacco and lung cancer

In 1761, Dr. John Hill of London, proved the relationship between the use of tobacco and cancer in his case study. In 1929, Fritz Lickint, a German physician first described the association between smoking and lung cancer3.

According to data from Centres For Disease and Prevention people who smoke cigarettes are 15 to 30 times more likely to get lung cancer or die from lung cancer than people who do not smoke. Even smoking a few cigarettes a day or smoking occasionally increases the risk of lung cancer. The more years a person smokes and the more cigarettes smoked each day the more risk goes up. There are more than 7,000 chemicals in cigarette smoke. More than 70 of those chemicals are linked to cancer.4,5,6,7. Many of these are toxic, particularly the tar component of the cigarettes. Tar damages body tissues and can also directly damage lung cells.

The lining of the airways in the lungs makes mucus that traps dust, bacteria, viruses, and other particles that are inhaled through the air. However, the toxic effects of smoking damages and kills these cells, making it harder for them to produce enough mucus to clean out and filter pollutants before they enter the lungs. When this happens, lung tissue is damaged and over time cancer may develop.

SCLC (Small Cell Lung Cancer)

About 10% to 15% of all lung cancers are SCLC and it is sometimes called oat cell cancer. 

This type of lung cancer tends to grow and spread faster than NSCLC with a general 5-year survival rate of 7%.8 About 70% of people with SCLC will have cancer that has already spread at the time they are diagnosed. Unfortunately, for most people, the cancer will return at some point.

The initial symptoms are similar to those seen with NSCLC, including coughing up blood or rust colored sputum. It may also be accompanied by wheezing or other breathing noises, hoarseness or loss of voice, loss of appetite, fever, weight loss, night sweats and/or chest pain. Unlike LCLC tumors, these tumor cells are usually smaller and therefore harder to detect.

Survival Rate

Most lung cancer is caused by long-term tobacco use9. About 20% of lung tumors develop in non-smokers. People with lung cancer who have never smoked tend to be younger than smokers (and former smokers) who get the disease and are more likely to be women10. Lung cancer developed in non-smokers typically is caused through exposure to second-hand smoke, radon gas, asbestos, air pollution, toxic metals, soot, sawdust or coal dust.

The most typical age group in which lung cancer is found is that of 70+ years old with men being at slightly higher risk than women. Unfortunately, the 5-year survival rate of lung cancer patients is below 20%11. This is due in large part to most late-stage diagnosis occurring when the disease is already at an advanced or metastatic stage.

Early detection is critical to successful and survivable cancer treatments and management.

BioMark Diagnostics is developing actionable blood-based diagnostic tools for clinicians by integrating new cutting-edge quantification and qualification technologies along with machine learning.  What this means for you, the patient, minimally invasive, and fast cancer detection tools available to your physician.

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  1. Canadian Cancer Statistics 2021
  2. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/lung-cancer/about/key-statistics.html
  3. https://www.wikidoc.org/index.php/Non_small_cell_lung_cancer_historical_perspective
  4. S. Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS). A Report of the Surgeon General: How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: What It Means to You (Consumer Booklet). Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health; 2010.
  5. Hecht SS. Research opportunities related to establishing standards for tobacco products under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. Nicotine & Tobacco Research. 2012; 14(1):18-28.
  6. Hoffmann D, Hoffmann I, El Bayoumy K. The less harmful cigarette: a controversial issue. A tribute to Ernst L. Wynder. Chemical Research in Toxicology. 2001; 14:767-790.
  7. International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Some non-heterocyclic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and some related exposures. In: IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans. Vol. 92. Lyon, France: International Agency for Research on Cancer; 2010.
  8. International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Tobacco smoke and involuntary smoking. In: IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans. Vol. 83. Lyon, France: International Agency for Research on Cancer; 2004.
  9. https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/lung-cancer-small-cell/statistics
  10. https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/lung/basic_info/risk_factors.htm
  11. https://www.health.com/condition/lung-cancer/causes-of-lung-cancer-non-smoker
  12. S. National Institute Of Health, National Cancer Institute. SEER Cancer Statistics Review, 1975–2015
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