Pioneer Health

Docyard | Broken heart syndrome

Docyard | Broken heart syndrome

Let the lungs breathe easy

Lungs are one of the most fragile organs of human anatomy and play a critical role in supplying oxygen to the blood. However, lung cancer is among the most common cancers worldwide and claims millions of lives each year. This life-threatening disease results from abnormality in body cells and develops due to a variety of reasons. In India, the total number of new cancer cases was about 14.5 lakh in 2016, according to Indian Council of Medical Research, resulting in over 7.36 lakh deaths.

About 80 per cent of lung cancers are due to smoking cigarettes and bidis. Smokers are at least 10 times more likely to develop lung cancer than non-smokers. Air pollution, passive smoking and hazardous work environment like asbestos, mica, coal and bauxite mining or exposure to radiation and radon gas also affect lung health.

Silent killer

There are two main types of lung cancer. Non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC) account for about 80 per cent of lung cancers and develop mainly from cells which line the lungs. On the other hand, small-cell lung cancer (SCLC) accounts for about 20 per cent of cases and are believed to develop from nerve or gland cells. In India, NSCLC constitutes 75-80% of lung cancers. SCLC constitutes 20% of all lung cancers.


Increasing age is the most important risk factor for most cancers. The other risk factors are:

  • Current or history of tobacco consumption
  • Exposure to cancer-causing substances in second-hand smoke.
  • Radiation therapy to the breast or chest
  • Medical imaging tests, like CT scans
  • Atomic bomb radiation
  • Living in an area with air pollution
  • Family history of lung cancer
  • Human immunodeficiency virus infection
  • Beta carotene supplements in heavy smokers

Symptoms and treatments

The common symptoms include cough, shortness of breath, weight loss, coughing up blood, loss of appetite, weakness, chest pain, hoarseness of voice and persistent lung infection.

Surgery is considered if a tumour is small and the person has good lung function. Only about 10 per cent of people diagnosed with lung cancer are suitable for surgery.

Radiotherapy uses a beam of x-rays to kill or shrink cancer cells. It is usually used for people who are not able to have surgery, and often involves receiving radiation treatment over several days or weeks. If a tumour is large, radiotherapy is used to shrink it to relieve pain or other symptoms without attempting to cure the cancer.

Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells and is mainly used in later stages of lung cancer. Once injected, it can attack cancer cells throughout the body and help stop the cancer from spreading. As many people with lung cancer are diagnosed with advanced disease, chemotherapy is a common treatment option to help prolong life and reduce symptoms.

Targeted therapy uses drugs to block the growth and spread of cancer cells.


  •  Individual resolution to quit smoking, family and social support, nicotine replacement and behavioural therapy can be of great help.
  •  Eating right and exercising support the body’s immune system for better respiration and overall health. A diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables is excellent. One hour of exercise can improve lung health dramatically.
  • To improve indoor air quality, one should keep the home well-ventilated as well as clean and hygienic.

(The writer is Consultant, Medical Oncology ,Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital)



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