Of the 40,000 people diagnosed with lung cancer each year in the UK, fewer than a tenth survive for more than the next five years.
Lung cancer is one of the most common and serious types of cancer. There are usually no signs or symptoms in the early stages of lung cancer, but many people with the condition will eventually develop symptoms including a persistent cough, coughing up blood, persistent breathlessness, unexplained tiredness and weight loss and/or an ache or pain when breathing or coughing.
Lung cancer can lie dormant for 20 years before it is first diagnosed – which would help explain why the disease is so difficult to treat and why survival rates are so poor.
Now, researchers have found that, in some patients, the first mutations that caused the disease occurred, probably as a result of smoking, two decades before the tumour became life threatening, reports The Independent newspaper.
After that, the tumour cells quietly develop new mutations, making different parts of the same tumour genetically unique.
This means that by the time symptoms become apparent, it is very difficult to treat the cancer effectively with any one targeted medicine.
“What we’ve not been able to understand before is why this really is the emperor of all cancers and one of the hardest diseases to treat,” said Professor Charles Swanton of Cancer Research UK, who co-wrote one of the papers. “Previously, we didn’t know how heterogeneous these early-stage lung cancers were.”
As an alternative to tobacco, try the no.1 electronic cigarette brand in independent chemists – Vapourlites.