Lung cancer mostly diagnosed late

Cases of chronic lung disease and lung cancer are rapidly rising in India, remaining mostly undiagnosed until it is too late, experts say.

As Thursday marked World Lung Cancer Day, doctors say changing lifestyles, smoking and air pollution have alarmingly raised the number of lung problems.

“There is a huge increase in the number of lung cancer and other lung diseases cases,” Harit Chaturvedi, chief consultant and director (Surgical Oncology) at Max hospital here, told IANS.

“Usually the peak age when lung cancer attacks is the 50s and 60s,” he said, adding that cancer cases are seen in Indian patients a decade earlier than their western counterparts “for unknown reasons”.

Along with cancer, rising equally rapidly are cases of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease that causes acute breathing problems, also related to smoking in most cases.

“Currently, India has close to 24 million COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) cases which are expected to increase by 34 percent to 32 million by 2020,” said Vivek Nangia, additional director and head, pulmonology, Fortis Hospital, Vasant Kunj.

“The number of men with COPD is approximately 14.11 million, one and a half times more than the number of women in 2010 which was approximately 9.57 million,” he says.

According to Nangia, smoking is the primary cause of COPD, also causing cancer in long term in many cases.

“Most COPD patients are ex or current smokers who experience morning cough and sputum, the intensity of which gradually increases over the years and the patient develops breathlessness,” he says.

“It may pose serious limitations in daily activities of the sufferer. Frequent acute increase in symptoms may lead to repeated visits to doctors’ clinic or hospital admissions,” he adds.

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The biggest issue however remains that lung problems are often ignored and go undiagnosed due to lack of information.

“Symptoms like cough, blood in sputum and irritation in throat often get ignored because these are common symptoms,” says Chaturvedi.

“Generally, healthy people don’t think about disease,” he says.

The doctor adds that smokers in general, after the age of 40 years, should go for yearly X-rays to check the situation of their lungs.

“Quitting smoking is the best option but even reducing the frequency helps in a big way,” he says.

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