MUMBAI: Although “promising” therapies have emerged in recent years, lung cancer has emerged as one of the most common cancers among Indians. It is the second most common cancer among Indian men and fifth among women.
On Tuesday, sources close to actor Sanjay Dutt (61) said he reportedly had adenocarcinoma of the lungs, a type of cancer that emerges in the organ’s mucous lining. The actor has maintained he is taking off for medical reasons.

“Lung cancer is the most common cancer among men the world over and in India too,” said medical oncologist Dr Jyoti Bajpai from Tata Memorial Hospital, Parel.
Smoking has traditionally been associated with 85% of lung cancer cases. However, doctors say that in recent years, the incidence of lung cancer among people who don’t smoke too has been going up. Diesel fumes and pollution are now emerging as major causes for the disease.
“The message to be given is that lung cancer is not always associated with smoking. Studies suggest that around 40-45% of people who get lung cancer have never smoked,” said Dr C Pramesh, director of Tata Memorial Hospital.
The big problem with lung cancer, at present, is the high mortality-to-incidence ratio. “If 1,000 people get lung cancer, 850 to 900 will die early,” said Dr Pramesh. This occurs because eight out of 10 lung cancer patients reach oncologists when it is too late for them to operate.
In the last few years, immunotherapy (called check point inhibitors) has shown promise. “Immunotherapy can be used in some patients, but laboratory tests need to be done,” said Dr Bajpai.
However, immunotherapygot regulatory approval for its good outcome. “Moreover, there is advancement in overall therapy options, diagnostics, resulting in overall improvement in outcomes for lung cancer,” said Dr Bajpai.
Experts said that there is need to increase awareness about the disease and its symptoms. “If viral fever isn’t the cause of persistent cough for four or five weeks, breathlessness or blood in the sputum, lung cancer should be thought as a reason,” said a senior doctor.
In India, where primary doctors prescribe anti-tuberculosis medicines for people with abnormal X-ray, Dr Pramesh said a CT scan must also be advised. “Instead of going through tuberculosis treatment that won’t work, the patient needs to reach an oncologist at the earliest,” he said.

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