The Need for Better Tools to Improve Early Detection of Lung Cancer – Lung Cancer Month

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The Need for Better Tools to Improve Early Detection of Lung Cancer

November is the Lung Cancer Awareness Month. Lung cancer affects both men and women of any race or ethnicity. Every year, 1 out of 3 people diagnosed with cancer dies from lung cancer, which makes it the deadliest among all cancer.

Lung Cancer is the most common cause of cancer death. However, most people won’t show symptoms of the disease and screenings often come far too late. 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.

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Why Early Detection Is Needed

Early detection can save lives and survival rates are better for patients diagnosed with Stage 1 and 2 lung cancers. Lung cancer was not identified as a disease until 1700. Morgagni GB, an Italian anatomist, first described lung cancer in his book “De sedibus et causis morborum per anatomen indagatis.1“Since then, there has been a steady increase in diagnosis for this disease, and there have been great improvements in the survival rates since its first documentation. But even with these statistics, lung cancer is still one of the deadliest forms of cancer, becoming fatal within five years for those who don’t receive treatment. The 5-year survival rate of lung cancer patients is below 20%2.

At Risk Population: Current Smokers, Past Smokers & Duration of Smoking

Because lung cancer is related to smoking, people who are smokers are at an extremely increased risk for this disease. 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 smoke3.

Smoking increases lung cancer risk by4:

  • Causing genetic changes in the cells of the lungs
  • Damaging the lungs’ normal cleaning process by which they get rid of foreign and harmful particles
  • Lodging cancer-causing particles in the mucus and developing into cancer tumours

 

A 2018 study published in Preventive Medicine Report aimed to assess these risks over an 18-year period, categorizing male and female smokers as “never smokers,” “former smokers,” or “current smokers.” A total of 9,623 lung cancer cases from 1995 to 2013 were included in the evaluation.

Based on the findings, the researchers estimated that lifetime risk of lung cancer by smoking status in males and females is:5

Smoking Status

Male Lifetime Risk 

Female Lifetime Risk

Never smoker

 1.8%

1.3%

Former smokers 

 7.2%

5.8%

Current smokers 

14.8% 

11.2%

The duration of smoking also affects the risk of developing lung cancer. The longer you smoke, the higher the likelihood of being at risk6.

Quitting cigarettes lowers the risk of lung cancer, but it can take some time before that risk decreases. Even if you smoked a few cigarettes a day or only occasionally, your risk would never reach that of a never smoker7.

Medical History and Physical Exam

Your doctor will ask about your medical history to learn about your symptoms and possible risk factors. Your doctor will also examine you to look for signs of lung cancer or other health problems.

If the results of your history and physical exam suggest you might have lung cancer, more tests will be done. These could include imaging tests and/or biopsies of the lung8.

Lung Cancer Screening Using Imaging

Lung Cancer is generally screened using a CT scan. CT Scans are preferred for those with a family history of lung cancer, or those who have shown positive scans from X-Rays. Other lung cancer screenings include SPECT and PET scans, which have been shown to detect lung cancer before physical symptoms begin to appear. Like CT scans, MRI scans show detailed images of soft tissues in the body.  MRI scans are most often used to look for possible spread of lung cancer to the brain or spinal cord.

New Tools to Improve Early Detection

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 liquid 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.

In recent studies it has been found that early detection tools such as BioMark Diagnostic’s Liquid Biopsy and metabolomic analysis could help detect lung cancer without harming or causing discomfort for patients. BioMark’s research has been published and presented in medical journals.

The studies compared the use of CT screening, lung function tests, and artificial intelligence and machine learning driven liquid biopsies to determine the most effective methodology for early-stage cancer detection. Liquid biopsy shows deeper insight and offers earlier detection of the disease compared to more traditional tools.

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Cancer is too important to ignore. November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. Share this article with someone you care about.

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Sources

  1. https://www.wikidoc.org/index.php/Non_small_cell_lung_cancer_historical_perspective
  2. U.S. National Institute Of Health, National Cancer Institute. SEER Cancer Statistics Review, 1975–2015
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/lung/basic_info/risk_factors.htm
  4. https://www.lungcancercanada.ca/Lung-Cancer/Causes/Smoking.aspx
  5. Bruder C, Bulliard JL, Germann S, et al. Estimating lifetime and 10-year risk of lung cancer. Prev Med Rep. 2018;11:125-30.doi:10.1016/j.pmedr.2018.06.010
  6. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/lung-cancer/causes-risks-prevention/risk-factors.html
  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What are the risk factors for lung cancer? Updated September 22, 2020.
  8. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/lung-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/how-diagnosed.html
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