Lung cancer causes one million deaths annually worldwide. Only in Spain are diagnosed 20,000 new cases each year. Its relationship with tobacco is direct : smokers have a risk 20 times higher than people who have never smoked.
In early stages the disease is confined to the lung and healing is possible , mainly by surgery and sometimes by radiotherapy. The problem is that at this stage the disease produces no symptoms and there is no official program for early detection.
Recently it has been shown that CT (computerized tomography) surveillance in smokers detects many incipient cases and significantly improves survival. Lung cancer in non-smokers is infrequent but its incidence is increased, although its causes are not yet known.
When the disease metastasizes, the chances of cure are drastically reduced, but it is important that each case be evaluated individually. In certain situations, such as the existence of a single metastasis, rescue strategies may be applied.
The treatment of lung cancer with multiple metastases is carried out with drugs : from chemotherapy administered via the vein to the new targeted drugs, which are often oral. Recent advances in this field have led to a revolution driven by detailed knowledge of the genetic alterations that occur in cancer cells. This identifies different subtypes of lung cancer and each of them can be treated with targeted drugs, much more effective and with fewer side effects .
Although in many cases these new drugs are not yet able to cure the extended disease, they can slow it down and reduce it for prolonged periods of time, sometimes for years, with minimal impact on the quality of life of the patient .