Lung cancer: awareness and early detection are key, speak to your GP if you have any concerns

Do you know that 79% of lung cancer cases are preventable?1 As November marks Lung Cancer Awareness Month, here at Sanofi we are more motivated than ever to raise awareness of the need to spot early signs and symptoms of this devastating disease, whilst continuing to work relentlessly to provide healthcare solutions to our patients.

Lung cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in the UK2 with around 48,500 news cases every year, that’s more than 130 new cases every day.1 Lung cancer accounts for the most common cause of cancer death in both men and women,3 making early diagnosis and research and development into new treatments, paramount.

The importance of early diagnosis

Early symptoms of lung cancer can be subtle, it may be a shortness of breath or a small cough, depending on which part of the lung is affected. Many of the signs and symptoms of lung cancer are similar to those of COVID-19. Therefore, there is a real need to help people “spot the difference” and encourage them to seek medical advice as early as possible. Finding and treating cancer at an early stage can save lives. Speaking with your doctor if you notice a change in your body and a difference in your health is actively encouraged.

Types of Lung Cancer

There are different types of lung cancer, divided into two main groups, Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC) and Small Cell Lung Cancer (SMLC).

The most common form of lung cancer in the UK is NSCLC, accounting for around 80-85% of all lung cancer diagnoses.4

Two main causes of NSCLC

  • Smoking cigarettes is still the main cause of NSCLC with around 9 out of 10 people diagnosed being smokers or ex-smokers.5 Not all NSCLC results from smoking but cases in people who do not smoke is significantly lower
  • Age – even if the majority of new cases of NSCLC are in the older population, (almost half of new cases are in those aged 75 and older), NSCLC can also affect younger people, although it is rare under the age of 40.5

Other risk factors include:6

  • Exposure to cancer-causing substances in secondhand smoke
  • Occupational exposure to asbestos, arsenic, chromium, beryllium, nickel, and other agents
  • Radiation exposure from any of the following: radiation therapy to the breast or chest, radon exposure in the home or workplace, medical imaging tests, such as computed tomography (CT) scans
  • Living in an area with air pollution
  • Family history of lung cancer
  • Human immunodeficiency virus infection
  • Beta carotene supplements in heavy smokers

Symptoms of NSCLC are various3

  • Persistent cough that lasts three weeks or more
  • Breathlessness
  • Repeated chest infections
  • Chest and/or shoulder pain
  • Loss of appetite and/or unexplained weight loss
  • Change in a long-term cough, or a cough that gets worse
  • Coughing up blood
  • Unexplained fatigue or lack of energy
  • Hoarseness
  • Finger clubbing
  • Blood clots

Treating NSCLC

There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach for treating NSCLC. When evaluating patients, the unique characteristics of their cancer need to be carefully evaluated, such as, the anatomy of the cancer, if the cancer has spread, if there are any genetic mutations as well as other conditions or co-morbidities that need to be taken into account.7 Due to this, there are different treatment options and approaches available for patients with NSCLC. Sanofi is dedicated to focusing on long-term efforts to advance much needed innovation in this area.

References

  1. Cancer Research UK. Lung cancer statistics. Available at: https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/statistics-by-cancer-type/lung-cancer#:~:text=1%20in%2013%20UK%20males,in%20the%20UK%20are%20preventable. Last accessed November 2021.
  2. Cancer Research UK. Common cancer. Available at: https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/incidence/common-cancers-compared#heading-Zero. Last accessed November 2021.
  3. Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation. Lung cancer signs and symptoms. Available at: https://roycastle.org/about-lung-cancer/lung-cancer-signs-and-symptoms. Last accessed November 2021.
  4. Cancer Research UK. Types of Lung cancer. Available at: https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/lung-cancer/stages-types-grades/types. Last accessed November 2021.
  5. Macmillan. Causes and risk factors of lung cancer. Available at: https://www.macmillan.org.uk/cancer-information-and-support/lung-cancer/causes-and-risk-factors-of-lung-cancer. Last accessed November 2021.
  6. National Cancer Institute. Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment (PDQ®)–Health Professional Version. Risk factors. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/lung/hp/non-small-cell-lung-treatment-pdq. Last accessed November 2021.
  7. ESMO. What is Non-Small-Cell-Lung Cancer? How will my treatment be determined. Available at: https://www.esmo.org/content/download/7252/143219/file/en-non-small-cell-lung-cancer-guide-for-patients.pdf. Last accessed November 2021.