When to see a lung cancer specialist in Singapore

Lung cancer is one of the top diseases that increasingly continues to affect Singaporeans over the recent years. According to the National Cancer Centre Singapore, lung cancer is the third most reported case of cancer between men and women in Singapore from the year 2015 to 2019. If you suspect that you may have symptoms of this disease or even just a high risk of getting it, then you should look into consulting a lung cancer specialist in Singapore sooner.

Lung cancer develops in the lungs and has a great possibility to affect the lymph nodes and other internal organs. The condition can also be caught from other organs in the body that has cancer. Cancer of this type has four stages, with stage IV as the most advanced and indicative of cancer spreading to other parts of the body.

Lung cancer is divided into two major types:

  • Small cell lung cancer
  • Non-small cell lung cancer

Small cell lung cancer is usually diagnosed in people who smoke heavily, while non-small cell lung cancer is a general term used for the other types of lung cancer, such as:

  • Adenocarcinoma
  • Large cell carcinoma
  • Squamous cell carcinoma

It is very difficult to determine whether lung cancer is present during its earlier phase as it rarely shows any signs. Usually, the symptoms surface when the disease is already in its advanced stage. The following are signs and symptoms that may indicate the occurrence of lung cancer:

  • Blood that comes with your cough
  • Cough that is persistent and does not get cured
  • Hoarseness
  • Headache
  • Pain in the chest
  • Pain in the bones
  • Shortness of breath
  • Unexplained and unintentional weight loss

If you have been experiencing any of these, do not delay seeing a lung cancer specialist.

What causes lung cancer?

Lung cancer is usually detected in people who smoke and who are exposed to secondhand smoke. However, anyone can develop lung cancer—whether they are not smokers or they have not been exposed to secondhand smoke for a long period of time.

The risk of developing the disease may increase among people who:

  • Have a habit of smoking
  • Have lung cancer in their family medical history
  • Have been exposed to asbestos, arsenic, chromium, and nickel
  • Have been exposed to secondhand smoke for an extended period of time
  • Have been exposed to radon gas
  • Have undergone radiation therapy for any kind of chest condition or cancer

What happens when you see a lung cancer specialist in Singapore?

It is imperative that you come in prepared when you see a lung cancer specialist in Singapore. You can expect your doctor to ask you questions about the following:

  • Your personal and family medical history
  • Your lifestyle
  • Your symptoms and when you started experiencing them

In preparation for your consultation, you may follow the following tips:

  • Ask in advance if there are things you need to stop doing or taking prior to the schedule of consultation
  • Compile and bring your recent medical records and test results
  • Jot down of all the symptoms you are experiencing
  • Keep a list of all medications that you are taking, including vitamins and supplements
  • List questions that you would like to ask your doctor
  • Take note of any life events that have caused great stress
  • Think about getting someone to accompany you to your appointment

What are the tests that can diagnose lung cancer?

Expect your lung specialist to recommend tests for you to undergo depending on the severity of the signs and symptoms that you are currently experiencing. For people who have the habit of smoking heavily or those who have stopped smoking in the past 15 years, lung cancer screening is often recommended. Those who have a high risk of developing the disease should also consider to get screened for lung cancer every year.

To get an accurate diagnosis for lung cancer, you may be asked by your doctor to undergo the following tests:

  • Biopsy or tissue sample
  • Imaging tests
  • Sputum cytology

Biopsy is performed by getting a sample of abnormal cells found in the lungs. This can be done in various ways:

  • Bronchoscopy – this test uses a medical tool, called a bronchoscope, which is a thin flexible lighted tube that is inserted into the mouth, which then travels through your esophagus and into the lungs.
  • Mediastinoscopy – this is done by getting tissue samples from the lymph nodes by making an incision at the neck’s base and inserting medical tools at the back of the breastbone.
  • Needle biopsy – this is done to collect abnormal tissues using CT or X-ray images to direct the passage of a needle through the wall of the chest until it reaches the lung tissue.

Imaging tests for cancer diagnosis can either be through a CT scan or X-ray. Images from an X-ray test can show any abnormal mass or nodule present in the lungs, while a CT scan can further expose the presence of tiny lesions in the lungs that may not be caught in the X-ray images.

Sputum cytology is a test done when sputum is present in your cough. A sample of the sputum is collected and examined under a microscope to determine the existence of lung cancer cells.

If cancer is unfortunately detected, your lung cancer specialist can determine the appropriate treatment that you need basing on the stage of your cancer. Your doctor may recommend staging tests. These tests are done to see whether the cancer has spread to other organs in the body not. Staging tests include:

  • Bone scans
  • CT Scan
  • MRI
  • Positron Emission Tomography (PET)

What are treatments for lung cancer?

Lung cancer can be treated in various ways. Depending on the severity of your condition, your doctor may suggest any of the following:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Palliative care
  • Radiation therapy
  • Stereotactic body radiotherapy
  • Surgery (e.g. Lobectomy, pneumonectomy, segmental resection, wedge resection)
  • Targeted drug therapy

Is there a way to prevent cancer?

Just like any other cancer, there is no concrete way of preventing cancer. However, you may lower the risk of developing this condition. Here are ways to do this:

  • Avoid getting exposed to toxic chemicals
  • Avoid secondhand smoke
  • Do not smoke
  • Exercise
  • Keep a healthy diet by including a lot of fruit and vegetables in your meals
  • Quit smoking

IP Lung Clinic

Interventional Pulmonology & lung Clinic

Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre, 3 Mount Elizabeth, #12-03, Singapore 228510

+65 9023 0158