Lung Cancer: Greek expert explains all the advances in treatment and the test that detects the disease

doctor patient lung cancer

Early elimination of lung cancer is advancing in leaps and bounds as there is now a wide range of treatment options, according to Mr. Epaminondas Samantas, Oncologist-Pathologist and Director of the 2nd Oncology Clinic at the Metropolitan Hospital.

Lung cancer is the second most common form of cancer, after prostate cancer in men and breast cancer in women. At the same time, however, it also holds the first place as the deadliest cancer for both sexes worldwide, with smoking being the leading cause.

In Greece, new cases are constantly increasing, as the percentages of smokers still remain high, a fact that could be reversed, provided it is diagnosed early, with the application of modern treatments available.

What are the causes of lung cancer?

Smoking is in first place, and even passive smokers are at increased risk of developing the disease. Consequently, a smoker can reduce the risk of developing lung cancer by quitting.

Other risk factors include exposure to asbestos and radon, but there are also some patients for whom we cannot identify a known cause for their particular form of cancer.

What are the symptoms of the disease?

The symptoms that a lung cancer patient may experience vary. Some patients are asymptomatic, but most have cough, hemoptysis, dyspnea, chest pain, malaise, or fever.

After the necessary imaging test is done, it is particularly important to perform a biopsy, which differentiates between the two main histological types: small cell and non-small cell lung cancer.

Non-small cell lung cancer, which accounts for 80-90% of cases, mainly includes adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.

Has there been progress in addressing it?

Remarkable progress has been made in recent years, with more options available in addition to surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

The first concerns targeted therapies, which, as their name suggests, target specific mutations in cancer cells. We have drugs for these. These are usually pills that patients take orally to increase life expectancy and improve their quality of life.

The second important development is immunotherapy, which is a milestone in changing the therapeutic algorithm. It is an intravenous treatment designed to activate the body's defences and induce an effective immune response against cancer. It can be taken alone or in combination with chemotherapy and achieves excellent results.

Is there prevention in the early stages?

Of course, there can be prevention. It appears that annual low-dose computed tomography can identify the early stages of lung cancer, so it should be performed regularly by smokers or those who have stopped smoking in the past 15 years.

At Metropolitan Hospital, we have a lung screening program in partnership with the FairLife organisation, which involves oncologists, pulmonologists and thoracic surgeons. In fact, in recent years, more than 100 patients have been examined in whom early lung cancer was found in a percentage greater than 5%. In these cases, the cancer was effectively treated because the disease was detected at an early stage.

* The Metropolitan Hospital Radiation Oncology Center consists of a highly trained and experienced team of specialists who offer a consultative approach through an oncology board of oncologists, pulmonologists and radiologists and individualise every aspect of patient treatment. It is worth noting that Metropolitan Hospital offers the most modern radiotherapy techniques for the treatment of lung cancer, including Three Dimensional Conformal Radiotherapy (3D-CRT), Intensity Modulated Radiotherapy (IMRT) and Image Guided Radiotherapy (IGRT) and four-dimensional computed tomography (4D-CT).

Epaminondas Samantas is an Oncologist - Pathologist, Director of the 2nd Oncology Clinic at the Metropolitan Hospital. Translated by Paul Antonopoulos.

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