Quitting smoking greatly reduces the risk of lung cancer after 10 years of quitting and, if not for the cigar, the cases of this disease would be very few, said Dr. Isabela Rivas.
“85% of cases of this cancer are associated with tobacco, although in Mexico this figure is reduced since in 34% of cases the responsible is wood smoke,” said the medical manager of oncology for Roche Mexico.
Lung cancer, explained the expert, is an alteration of the cells in the lung that grow in a disorganized manner and without a normal function, which causes the normal lung tissue to invade and generate faults in this organ.
“This can spread to other parts of the body, mainly the brain,” Rivas said.
That is why, worldwide, it is the most frequent cancer and the first oncological cause of mortality. Each year, two million new cases are registered each year and 1.7 million people die of these.
In Mexico, 9,000 new cases are detected annually and 22 Mexicans die daily due to this condition.
One of the factors that has led to an increase in the number of cases of lung cancer is that more and more women smoke, and they do so at younger ages.
“The problem is that eight out of 10 people arrive at very advanced stages of the disease and that is what affects so many deaths,” said the expert.
In addition, “the symptoms are not specific, and that is why the doctor begins to treat the patient with cold, pneumonia, antibiotics, and that delays the diagnosis,” he said.
Rivas explained that the life expectancy of patients in advanced stages is five years. “Only 4% of patients who are diagnosed in advanced stages are still alive at five years, the rest die between the first and second year of the disease,” he said.
However, in the last decades the treatment of lung cancer has had a great advance thanks to the development of new therapies that have managed to improve the survival rates of chemotherapy.
And, he said, the coming years will be key to treating this disease, in which prevention and research will play a fundamental role.
In Mexico, said the expert, progress is being made in terms of access to new therapies and today there are different alternatives to treat this cancer in advanced stages, and one of them is immunotherapy.
This type of treatment stimulates the body’s natural defenses in order to fight cancer.
“With this treatment, patients who respond have long-term benefits, and in two-year clinical studies, 30% of patients are still alive, which has changed the expectations and treatment of lung cancer,” he said.
Another treatment is aimed at patients who did not smoke or who smoked very little, but who have an alteration of the ALK gene. “They are usually very young patients and women,” he said.
The lung tumor with ALK mutation is rare but with a high associated morbidity, since in 60% of cases metastasis occurs in the brain.
This new therapy is aimed at that mutation “and what it offers is that patients live three years without the disease getting worse”.
What she does, explained the expert, is to recognize and act on tumor cells, prevent cancer from progressing and reduce the risk of brain damage.
This, concluded Rivas, represents an important hope for the patients because, although it is not known how much they will live because there are not yet results of global survival, “the simple fact of knowing that in three years they will be stable and they will not have alteration or worsening it’s something that has never been seen before. “(EFEUSA) .-