Lung Cancer

Every minute progress in battling lung cancer is a success, no matter how marginal that seems to be to the general mass. For a patient of lung cancer, any cancer, 21 months of more longevity with their friends and family, soaking up life's last aesthetic essences, even though going through measured morphin, surgery and chemotherapy, surely a positive aspect of human beings' continuous struggle in combating a disease, cancer in its various forms and shape, that still remains to be a pronounced death sentence for the majority of patients.

Significant numbers of research are being conducted in world's top notch universities around the world, and in time, one can only hope, that complete cure from this all invasive disease will surely emerge, perhaps too late for many, including our generation, too engrossed in raging superficial wars against one another.


Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is such a remorseless killer that any gain against it is reason for applause. That is why the latest news about startling improvements in treating early-stage victims of the most common form of lung cancer is especially heartening.

Lung cancer will kill more than 160,000 Americans this year, making it the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Those found to have the disease have, on average, only a 15 percent chance of surviving for five years, mostly because the cancer has already invaded nearby regions or spread to distant sites by the time it is detected.

Even when the disease has been detected at a relatively early stage, surgery to cut out the tumor has had only moderate success. Some 20 percent of all lung cancer patients have surgery, but only 30 percent to 60 percent survive for five years after treatment, depending on the size and status of their tumors.

Now a report says that adding chemotherapy after surgery can greatly improve the survival rate. A paper published recently in The New England Journal of Medicine described the results of a 10-year clinical trial in 482 patients, half of whom had received two chemotherapy drugs after surgery.

The patients all had early stages of non-small-cell lung cancer, the most common form of the disease. Of those given the drugs, cisplatin and vinorelbine, 69 percent were alive five years later, compared with only 54 percent of the control group. Overall, the patients given chemotherapy lived for 94 months, while those who had surgery without the added drugs lived only 73 months.

In a field where gains are often marginal, these advances were hailed as "stunning" and "astonishing" by leading experts. About 50,000 people a year in this country will probably be candidates for the combined surgical and drug treatment. If all of them received the combined treatment, some 7,500 more people per year might survive for five years after treatment, a significant gain.

Still, the overall outlook for lung cancer patients remains gloomy.

There is no accepted screening test to detect lung cancer early, when it is most treatable, and chemotherapy does not work well against the most advanced stages. Only 2 percent to 8 percent of those patients survive for five years.

Smoking remains the main cause of lung cancer, accounting for perhaps 90 percent of the deaths. While smoking rates have been inching down, they are still alarmingly high. The best cure for lung cancer is to prevent it, by not smoking and by avoiding the exhalations of those who do.