I just found out I have lung cancer, what happens now? What does it take to get a complete diagnosis? What are the most effective therapies? What to do or avoid during and after treatment to live better? These are just some of the hundreds of questions that arise about 41 thousand Italians every year, those who discover they have lung cancer, and their families. The manual «Lung cancer. From diagnosis to after treatment ”, produced in the form of questions and answers on symptoms, diagnosis, therapy and management of the disease by the Umberto Veronesi Foundation, which can be downloaded for free in the download area of the website www.fondazioneveronesi.it.
“What affects the lungs is the second most frequent neoplasm in males and the third in females – remembers Giulia Veronesi, member of the Scientific Committee on Smoking of the Foundation -. There are therefore many people who seek information on the subject, which must be clear, accessible and scientifically correct. The manual is designed in a very simple form, to meet the needs of those who get sick, caregivers and family members and also those who want information on prevention ».
Raise the price of tobacco
The first part of the text is dedicated to risk factors, first of all smoking, which is the primary cause of the onset of this neoplasm: almost 9 out of 10 cases are directly linked to tobacco. Today again in Italy, smoking remains the first avoidable cause of premature deaths and respiratory, cardiovascular, oncological diseases. About 90 thousand victims are attributed to the use of tobacco every year: in a quarter of the cases they are women and men under 65. Just considering the cancer deaths, at least 43 thousand people a year lose their lives due to oncological diseases attributable to smoking. “The human cost is dramatic, the social and economic cost is very high – underlines Veronesi, director of Robotic Thoracic Surgery at the IRCCS San Raffaele Hospital in Milan and Associate Professor at the Vita Salute San Raffaele University -. A cost that we can avoid or reduce in an important way: smoking is a health emergency that requires immediate action and in proportion to its severity.This is why Fuv constantly renews its appeal for a significant increase in the price of packets of cigarettes, loose tobacco, of heated tobacco devices, through the increase in excise duties. Economic leverage is not enough on its own, but concrete results are achieved together with support for cessation of addiction and targeted campaigns ”.
Helping smokers to quit
In fact, it is essential to inform the population (and especially young people) of the risks that are run every time you light a cigarette, but also of what can now be done to have an early diagnosis: screening with low-dose radiation CT scan and without contrast, for example, if proposed to heavy smokers or former heavy smokers exposed to smoke for more than 20 years could drastically change the fate of lung cancer prognosis and reduce mortality. Equally crucial is providing support to help smokers quit: according to statistics, at least 35% of Italian smokers (about 11 million fellow citizens) have tried to quit at least once. The overwhelming majority (75%) try it on their own and only about 5% try using drugs for quitting The chances of success are still low (10% have been away from smoking for at least six months), but the methods are effective and proven ones exist and it has been scientifically proven that it is never too late to do so, because there are benefits at all times, even when you are already diagnosed with lung cancer. However, the opportunity to quit smoking is not yet a right guaranteed to all citizens, while it has been shown that the chances of succeeding increase if you get targeted help. And from the results of a survey promoted by the Veronesi Foundation in 2020, it emerges that focusing on increasing the price of cigarettes would be a winning strategy: if the cost of tobacco rises, the number of smokers falls.
Therapies to extend the life of the sick
Unfortunately, even today the great majority of lung neoplasms are discovered already at an advanced stage, when metastases are present, and surgical removal is no longer possible. This explains why five years after diagnosis, only about 18% of patients are alive. “Lung cancer is still today the deadliest tumor in Italy – concludes the expert -. It is very difficult to cure, while it is very easy to prevent since it would be enough not to smoke to avoid that 85% of cases due to tobacco. But the good news is that it is one of the oncological diseases on which scientific research is most active, on which there are surgical, pharmacological and diagnostic innovations that are able to extend the survival of the sick ». It is now known that there are several types of cancer that affect the respiratory system and it is based on this information (including any genetic mutations present or not that can lead to the choice of a drug rather than another) which establishes the most suitable treatment procedure for the individual person. From surgery to radiotherapy, passing through chemotherapy and the latest generation treatments such as biological target drugs and immunotherapy, today the treatments available are many and are often combined with each other.