Abu Dhabi: Individuals must get screened for lung cancer even if they have never smoked, especially if they have a family history of the disease, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi has urged.
The risk also increases for people who are aged 50 years or more, and for those who are exposed to second-hand smoke, although the risk is highest for smokers, the hospital said in a statement issued for Lung Cancer Awareness Month, which is November.
“Lung cancer is one of the most common, complex, and aggressive forms of cancer, and the second most lethal type of cancer in the UAE. This is why we encourage people with a predisposition for this disease, particularly high-risk individuals with a smoking history and aged 50 years and above, to be screened at their earliest convenience,” said Dr Usman Ahmad, department chair of thoracic surgery in the hospital’s Heart, Vascular and Thoracic Institute.
“Thanks to early detection, better understanding of the disease, new treatments, and less invasive surgeries, the outlook for a person diagnosed with lung cancer is better than ever.”
According to the World Health Organisation, lung cancer is the second most common cancer worldwide in 2020, with 2.21 million cases and 1.8 million deaths recorded. Despite advances in therapy, it also remains the most fatal cancer in the world.
A 2021 medical journal article by UAE-based researchers reported that the disease is the third leading cause of cancer deaths in the country based on the latest statistics, with 80 per cent of patients diagnosed at a late stage. This late diagnosis reduces the effectiveness of treatment outcomes.
Hazards of smoking
Second-hand smoke from other people’s cigarettes, pipes, shisha, or cigars also puts people at risk. Smoke from any burning nicotine product contains harmful toxins that remain in the air that everyone breathes in — even after a smoker is no longer nearby. People who are exposed to cigarette smoke, or its components, frequently have long-lasting pathological changes in their lungs, which can cause a malignant tumour to grow.
Doctors have cautioned that symptoms often take years to develop in patients, which is why screening is so important.
“The message is simple: early detection saves lives. Unfortunately, lung cancer is often caught too late. Patients diagnosed in the earlier stages have access to a greater range of therapeutic alternatives. We always recommend regular screening. We recommend once a year for high-risk groups, and even for people as young as 20 years old who experience reoccurring symptoms like coughing, shortness of breath or ongoing chest pain,” said Dr Ali Saeed Wahla, staff physician at the hospital’s Respiratory Institute.
“Simple lifestyle changes that people can make — quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet, and exercising regularly — can also lower risk and help prevent the disease from developing.”
Official screening centre
The hospital was designated as the official pilot lung cancer screening centre for the emirate by the Department of Health — Abu Dhabi in 2021. Its multi-disciplinary lung cancer programme provides customised and coordinated care. Technologies such as CT imaging and molecular and genetic testing help identify lung cancer early and enhance patient outcomes. The hospital also provides a wide range of diagnostic tests, such as endobronchial ultrasound (EBUS) and transthoracic CT-guided biopsy for early intervention, and minimally invasive treatment techniques such as video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS).