Lung Cancer Screening Is Vital: Early Detection & Diagnosis
Lung cancer has been one of the leading cancers in Singapore for the past 50 years – being the top cause of cancer death among males and the second leading cause of cancer among females from 2013 to 20171.
Unfortunately, only about 16% of lung cancer cases are detected in the early stages2. Once a person’s cancer spreads to nearby tissues, their 5-year relative survival rate drops by almost half3.
While lung cancer can be fatal once it has reached the advanced stages, the majority of lung cancers can be cured and managed well when detected early.Because early stages of lung cancer do not always present with obvious symptoms, this makes regular lung cancer screening tests even more important for those who are at high risk.
Importance of early detection: the difference between life and death
There are two main types of lung cancers: non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer (SCLC) – a more aggressive type of lung cancer that accounts for roughly 15% of all lung cancer cases.
The good news is, the earlier doctors can detect lung cancer, the better the individual’s prognosis and the chance of cure. According to the National Cancer Institute, the overall 5-year relative survival rate for localised lung cancer (cancer that has not spread) is 59.8%3.
This is why doctors highly recommend those who are at high risk of lung cancer to get regular lung cancer screenings, even when there are no obvious symptoms and they are healthy.
The Ministry of Health in Singapore has recommended screening for the following risk groups:
• Smokers aged 55-75, with a 20 pack-years history of smoking,
• Ex-smokers who quit in the last 15 years,
To calculate your pack-years, simply take the number of packs you smoke daily and multiply it by the number of years you have been smoking. The higher the number, the higher your risk of developing lung cancer.
What to expect: lung cancer screening tests
The recommended test for lung cancer is a low-dose CT scan that uses a low amount of radiation to produce 3-dimensional images of your lungs to look for abnormalities or tumours.
The scan itself can be done quickly where you will be asked to lie down on the table. Studies have shown that low-dose CT scans can decrease lung cancer mortality byas much as 20% among high-risk populations4.
Your doctor may also suggest a chest X-ray or additional imaging tests such as a PET (positron emission tomography) scan or bone scan.
To diagnose lung cancer, a biopsy is done to determine the type and stage of cancer you have. The process involves taking samples of lung tissue and examining it under a microscope.
Accurate and prompt cancer diagnosis and treatment in Singapore is essential in helping you get back to living a healthy, fulfilling life. Upon diagnosis, your doctor will work with you to determine a suitable treatment plan. The mainstays of lung cancer treatment include a combination of surgery, chemotherapy (including targeted therapy), radiation therapy and immunotherapy.
Don’t wait for your symptoms to get worse before taking action
Ultimately, cancer screening tests aim to find cancer early before it causes symptoms and when it may be easier to treat successfully. ICS Cancer is a cancer treatment centre in Singapore that comprises a team of experienced lung cancer specialists, surgeons and oncologists who are here to support your recovery process and help you make an informed decision about your treatment plan.
If you are unsure whether or not you are suitable for a lung cancer screening test, speak to our team of doctors who can recommend the best course of action!
1. Asian-relevant lung cancer research presented at Global Lung Cancer Conference hosted in Singapore. (2021). Retrieved 22 September 2021, from https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/628222
2. Van Hal, G., & Diab Garcia, P. (2020). Lung cancer screening: targeting the hard to reach—a review. Translational Lung Cancer Research, 10(5), 2309-2322. doi:10.21037/tlcr-20-525
3. Cancer of the Lung and Bronchus – Cancer Stat Facts. Retrieved 22 September 2021, from https://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/lungb.html
4. Pinsky P. F. (2018). Lung cancer screening with low-dose CT: a world-wide view. Translational lung cancer research, 7(3), 234–242. https://doi.org/10.21037/tlcr.2018.05.12