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Early Lung Cancer Detection: NHS Tests New Blood Test for Drastically Improved Survival Rates

Lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide, has long been a formidable foe. Often by the time symptoms appear, the disease has progressed to a later stage, significantly reducing the chances of successful treatment. However, a beacon of hope has emerged on the horizon. The National Health Service (NHS) in the UK is pioneering a groundbreaking initiative – trialing a revolutionary Early Lung Cancer Detection: NHS Tests New Blood Test for Drastically Improved Survival Rates

Lung cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the lungs. It can begin in the cells that line the air passages and may spread to other parts of the body, such as the lymph nodes or the brain.

The two main types of lung cancer are small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). NSCLC is more common than small cell lung cancer and includes subtypes like adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. These types of lung cancer grow differently and are treated differently. Non-small cell lung cancer is more common than small cell lung cancer. Lung cancer can affect anyone, but certain factors, such as smoking, exposure to secondhand smoke, family history of lung cancer, exposure to certain substances like asbestos, arsenic, chromium, beryllium, nickel, soot, or tar, and exposure to radiation, can increase the risk of developing lung cancer.

The science behind this transformative test revolves around a concept called circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA). As tumors develop, they shed tiny fragments of their genetic material into the bloodstream. This ctDNA acts as a telltale signature, betraying the presence of cancer cells. The new blood test has the remarkable capability of identifying these minute ctDNA traces, effectively functioning as a cancer alarm within the blood.

The implications of this innovation are nothing short of seismic. Early diagnosis is paramount in the fight against lung cancer. By catching the disease in its early stages, when it’s often localized and hasn’t spread, treatment options become more effective. This translates to a dramatic increase in survival rates. Studies suggest that this new blood test could lead to drastically improved survival rates, potentially saving countless lives that would have otherwise been lost to this devastating disease.

According to Daily mail,Health chiefs hope the ‘exciting’ scheme will help patients get targeted treatments quicker — boosting their survival rates. Lung cancer patient Kat Robinson (pictured), from Dorset, was able to take tablets at home rather get treatment in hospital, giving her more time with her 11-year-old daughter Paige
The 33-year-old was diagnosed with stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer in September 2023. She said she has been told she has at least one year to live, but may survive for several more. Pictured, Kat Robinson with her daughter Paige.

Symptoms Of Lung Cancer

The symptoms of lung cancer can vary widely and may not appear until the cancer has spread. However, some people with early lung cancer may experience symptoms. Common symptoms include:

  • A persistent cough that does not go away or gets worse
  • Coughing up blood or rust-colored sputum (spit or phlegm)
  • Chest pain that often worsens with deep breathing, coughing, or laughing
  • Hoarseness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling tired or weak
  • Recurring infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia that do not improve
  • New onset of wheezing

If lung cancer spreads to other parts of the body, it may cause additional symptoms such as:

  • Bone pain (like pain in the back or hips)
  • Nervous system changes (such as headache, weakness or numbness of an arm or leg, dizziness, balance problems, or seizures)
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
  • Swelling of lymph nodes (collection of immune system cells) such as those in the neck or above the collarbone.

Can Lung Cancer Be Cured?

Lung cancer can be treated but not always cured. The effectiveness of treatment depends on the type and stage of the cancer. Treatment options include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, immunotherapy, clinical trials, supportive/palliative care, and complementary and alternative therapies. Each option has its own risks and potential side effects, which are managed as part of the treatment plan. The decision on which treatment to pursue is made by the patient and their care team, considering the type of cancer, its stage, and the patient’s treatment goals. For most patients with non-small cell lung cancer, current treatments do not cure the cancer, but they can help manage symptoms, improve quality of life, and extend survival. Participating in clinical trials for new treatments is an option for patients who have not started treatment yet.

Yes, lung cancer can be prevented, and several measures can be taken to reduce the risk of developing the disease. Here are the key preventive measures based on the provided sources:

  • Don’t Smoke: The most important step to prevent lung cancer is not to start smoking or to quit if you already smoke. Cigarette smoking causes about 80% to 90% of lung cancer deaths in the United States.
  • Avoid Secondhand Smoke: Smoke from other people’s cigarettes, cigars, or pipes is called secondhand smoke. Avoiding exposure to secondhand smoke can significantly reduce the risk of lung cancer.
  • Make Your Home and Car Smoke Free: Ensuring that your living and working environments are smoke-free can help protect you from exposure to harmful substances that cause lung cancer.
  • Get Your Home Tested for Radon: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends that all homes be tested for radon, a radioactive gas that can cause lung cancer. High levels of radon in homes can be reduced by taking steps to prevent radon leakage, such as sealing basements.
  • Be Careful at Work: Follow health and safety guidelines to avoid exposure to carcinogens (substances that can cause cancer) at work. Laws that protect workers from being exposed to cancer-causing substances, such as asbestos, arsenic, nickel, and chromium, may help lower their risk of developing lung cancer.
  • Eat a Healthy Diet: A diet rich in fruits and vegetables may help reduce your risk of lung cancer. Some evidence suggests that a diet high in fruits and vegetables may help protect people who smoke and those who don’t against lung cancer. However, the positive effect of fruits and vegetables on lung cancer risk would be much less than the increased risk from smoking.
  • Stay Active: Some studies show that people who are physically active have a lower risk of lung cancer than people who are not. Regular exercise can help control your weight, reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke, lower your blood pressure, and improve your mental health.
  • Lower Exposure to Workplace Risk Factors: Laws that prevent smoking in the workplace help lower the risk of lung cancer caused by secondhand smoke.
  • Quit Smoking: Smokers can decrease their risk of lung cancer by quitting. In smokers who have been treated for lung cancer, quitting smoking lowers the risk of new lung cancers. After a person has quit smoking for 10 years and the risk of lung cancer decreases.

By taking these preventive measures, individuals can significantly reduce their risk of developing lung cancer.

Also Read: AI Breakthroughs in Breast Cancer Detection and Treatment Prediction

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