Abu Dhabi, UAE: Greater awarness of lung cancer is needed locally because many people do not know enough about the disease, according to experts at the second annual International Oncology Conference on Saadiyat Island.
With lung cancer one of the leading causes of death in the UAE, and smoking one of the prime risk factors, according to the Health Authority Abu Dhabi statistics, early detection is essential.
“While lung cancer kills many people, there is not much awareness about it in the public domain,” said Dr Rajesh Paraswani, a radiologist specialist at Lifeline Hospital in Mussaffah. “Although other cancers are talked about, much research into lung cancer is still being validated and developed.”
Lung cancer in its early stages has no major symptoms and as a result is difficult to detect.
However, doctors are able to detect the condition early through blood tests and CT scans with low-dose radiation.
“Cough, cold and chest pain are some of the early symptoms of lung cancer but they are quite common and hence, overlooked by people and doctors,” said Dr Rafael Molina Porto, head of Hospital Clinic Barcelona’s cancer unit.
“Most people might not even know that there are two different types of lung cancer [non-small cell and small cell]. Detecting which one it is accurately will help the doctor to pursue effective treatment. The current methods have their drawbacks. The usual differentiation between the two is through a biopsy but this is not always possible.”
Dr Porto is involved in a study on developing tumour markers that will help in early cancer detection and also indicate how quickly the specified treatment is helping. If it is not, the treatment method can be changed.
According to the Abu Dhabi Health Authority, nearly nine out of 10 lung cancer cases are caused by tobacco. In addition, second-hand smoke increases the risk of contracting the disease by between 20 to 30 per cent.
The risk of lung cancer among smokers is at least 10 times higher than that of non-smokers, the World Health Organisation reports. However, people who have never smoked can also develop the disease.
“Prevention and early diagnosis are key,” Dr Porto said. “Campaigns help raise awareness and I have seen for myself that in Spain the number of smokers has gone down in the last 20 years. Encourage youngsters not to take up smoking and motivate those who smoke to cut down.”
Dr Paraswani said people who have been smoking for a long time are at high risk and they need to undergo screening.
“Smoking shisha and cigarettes are both harmful. The most important measure is prevention, encouraging people not to smoke.
“In our hospital in Mussaffah we have seen many cases of lung cancer and, depending on the patient, we screen them by using CT scans with a low dose of radiation that can detect the disease at an early stage. In most cases, we can go ahead and perform surgery and curb the problem before it grows. Early detection is the key. The problem is that early lung cancer has none or very few symptoms and X-rays also have their limitations.”
The oncology conference runs through this weekend and is being attended by more than 30 cancer experts and 600 delegates.
Speaking at the opening, Sheikh Nahayan bin Mubarak, Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development, called the UAE a country committed to the promotion of excellent health and advanced medical practices. He pointed out that the World Health Organisation had estimated that at least one-third of all cancer cases were preventable.
“It declares that ‘prevention offers the most cost-effective, long-term strategy for the control of cancer’. It is my hope that individuals, families, schools, cultures and governments around the world will work together to reduce the number of your patients.”
© The NationalSep 2014