Millennium Post

Cigarettes and lung cancer: new agents of death in Kolkata

Despite having received appreciation from several people for his business sense, Partho seemed to have failed to take the right decision as far as his health was concerned. For almost half of his life, Partho’s lungs had been exposed to carcinogenic cigarette smoke.

Fortunately for Partho, his cancer had not reached an advanced stage and the doctors found that his ailment could be treated. Lung cancer was once considered a rare type of cancer. But now, it is on the rise throughout the country. If one is above the age of 45 years and has been an active smoker for the last 20 years, then he or she must get themselves screened for lung cancer on a yearly basis.
Cigarette smoking increases a person’s chance of getting lung cancer by 15 to 30 times. Smokers are more likely to die from lung cancer than people who do not smoke. Unfortunately, in India, lung cancer is most often misdiagnosed as tuberculosis, which makes timely treatment even more challenging. It is also important to realise that lung cancer does not spare anyone and studies have 
found occurrence of lung cancer in relatively young smokers too. Hence, doctors in the city have emphasised the importance of screening in high-risk groups.

There are millions of people who pick up smoking without giving a single thought to its onsequences. 
When both sexes are considered as a whole, lung cancer is the most commonly occurring malignancy in the world, and accounts for 1.6 million deaths.

A study, conducted ahead of World Lung Cancer Day on August 1, reveals that around 76,599 new cases of lung cancer were reported in India in 2015, and the figure is projected to rise to 88,831 annually by the year 2020.

In India, 87% of male and 85% of female patients with lung cancer have a history of active tobacco smoking. Kolkata has one of the highest prevalence of lung cancer alongside Delhi, because of the severe air pollution. Studies reveal that bidi smoking is more carcinogenic than cigarette smoking and the relative risk of contracting lung cancer is more for bidi smokers compared to that of cigarette smokers. Apart from smoking, other risk factors include exposure to carcinogenic chemicals, second hand smoking, air pollution, lung infections, burning of coal in houses and family history. Symptoms of lung cancer include cough, coughing up blood or rusty-coloured phlegm, fatigue, unexplained weight loss, recurrent respiratory infections, hoarseness, new wheezing, and shortness of breath.

According to experts, early screening and recognition of risk factors can check the spread of lung cancer, which has emerged to be a disease which claims the maximum number of lives among people affected by it throughout the world.

In recent times, several public health programs focusing on heart disease and its prevention have been initiated in the country. There is an urgent need to put the spotlight on lung cancer, the risk factors involved and prevention and treatment options available. Unfortunately, most lung cancer patients come for treatment at a very advanced and critical stage. Lung cancer does not exhibit any symptoms in the initial stages. This is why early screening and diagnosis is extremely important to thwart its progression. Lung cancer, when diagnosed in advanced stages, most often turns fatal as it spreads rapidly. Screening has been the only way till now which reduces mortality among the affected.

“As far as treatment goes, lung cancer, if diagnosed at an early stage, can be cured by surgery with higher long term survival rates. In this, a special type of surgical staplers made up of titanium is used to remove tumour from the lung. This procedure decreases the overall cost of surgery by reducing hospital stay and rate of complications. Regular screening can save lives,” said Dr Amitabha Chakrabarti, a Kolkata-based senior consultant general and thoracoscopic surgeon.
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