Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer mortality in the world as of 2012 for both sexes. The mortality rate is 19.4% out of 1,589,925 cases and top 3 in incidence–13% of 1,824,701 cases.
Here in the Philippines, it is the 2nd in both sexes, but giving the most incidences and mortality upon men.
Mike Espina, the most recent lung cancer survivor will never forget the moment he found out he had lung cancer.
He even blogged about his disease and described what he felt when the doctor confirmed his worst fear— that the mass found in his lung was already in its stage four.
“As I remember, it was like in a movie. Suddenly everything stopped and movements became in a slow motion. I could not comprehend what my doctor was talking about, it could not sink into my head,” Mike Espina said in his blog entry. “I was enveloped by fear because I felt I would die too soon, not achieving things I wanted to happen in my life.”
Mike Espina’s challenges in battling with his lung cancer disease
Mike discovered he had lung cancer shortly after he returned to the Philippines. Initial symptoms were, Mike lost weight, his body grew weaker and more tiresome, until one night, he spat out blood, and he realized he had to visit a physician. There, he took a series of tests until a biopsy revealed the most shocking result in his life: he has lung cancer.
He said being diagnosed with lung cancer was farthest from his mind because he lived a healthy lifestyle. He ran regularly, ate healthy foods, and never smoked. But despite his effort to maintain a healthy lifestyle, he was surprised that he still ended up having lung cancer.
The doctor said that his exposure to petroleum refineries could have triggered the development of cancer cells in his lungs. Before he took up graduate studies in Germany, Mike lived and worked in Kuwait as a product development specialist for a telecommunications company.
Aside from his exposure to petroleum refineries, the doctor said stress could have also led to his condition, especially because Mike’s time as a graduate student in Frankfurt was a taxing period.
Mike’s pulmonologist recommended that he take oral therapy for three months to shrink the mass found in his left lung. After which, he and his pulmonologist would decide on a treatment plan.
During these times, Mike got support from friends at church, who gave him advice, and prayed for him. Even as he was on the brink of despair, friends from other countries called him to give him assurance and comfort.
A sigh of relief
After his oral therapy, Mike underwent another CT scan procedure to check if the mass on his lung had shrunk. The result surprised and delighted Mike. They were expecting that the mass would only shrink, but were astonished to discover that it had been eradicated completely. For Mike, his recovery was nothing less than a miracle.
Mike is now preparing to face another chapter of his life as he sets out to migrate to the United States later this year or early next year. He also devotes time to painting, a habit he acquired from his support group as part of his therapy. Whenever, there is a chance, whether at a church gathering, or in a random conversation, he finds opportunities to share his story.
“I share my experiences so I can help raise awareness on how we can overcome lung cancer,” Mike said, “I am grateful to have been healed by God, and I hope others can be inspired by my healing.”
A flicker of hope
This November, as Lung Cancer Awareness Month is being celebrated, stories like that of Mike give hope, especially to lung cancer patients and their loved ones. Yet for many patients and doctors, the different challenges of lung cancer are yet to be overcome.
“We have heard stories from lung cancer survivors, and they are stories that touch us,” Dr. Cornelio, an oncologist of the Saint Luke’s Medical Center said. “However, the challenges of lung cancer remain pressing, and they need to be addressed.”
Though smoking is considered the top cause of lung cancer, there are other factors increasing lung cancer risk including pollution, exposure to high doses of radiation, heredity, and industrial and chemical carcinogens.
Though the World Health Organization sees a spike in lung cancer diagnosis, developments in lung cancer treatment now give patients more options of winning their bout with the disease.
“Chemotherapy remains one of the common ways of curing cancer, but there are recent breakthroughs in lung cancer treatment that can help more patients,” said Dr. Gary Lorenzo, who is also an oncologist from the Makati Medical Center.
Dr. Lorenzo explained that other forms of therapy include radiation therapy, which kills cancer cells, and targeted therapy, which counters specific abnormalities in cancer cells. Of all the treatment options available to patients, Dr. Lorenzo pointed out that a form of treatment called immunotherapy proved very promising in clinical trials abroad.
Immunotherapy is a form of treatment where the body’s immune system is trained to recognize and ward off cancer cells. Results of clinical trials presented at the American Society for Clinical Oncology conference this year show that aside from lung cancer, immunotherapy was also effective against melanoma, kidney, bladder, and head and neck cancers.
Dr. Cornelio, however, still acknowledges that despite these developments in lung cancer treatment, nothing beats a healthy lifestyle when it comes to treating lung or other cancers.
“A sound and healthy lifestyle, and a clean environment, remain important factors in lung cancer treatment,” Dr. Cornelio said.
Dr. Lorenzo added that this November, it is opportune to take part in activities promoting lung cancer awareness. “Lung cancer patients, their families, or anyone can take part in efforts to raise awareness on lung cancer,” Dr. Lorenzo said. “Joining a support group can also be a good way in raising lung cancer awareness.”
Dr. Lorenzo noted that support groups, like Mike’s supporters from church, provide the moral, emotional, and psychological support that patients need during their recovery. He also mentioned that a support group can even increase a patient’s chances of survival.
Merck Philippines’ official website: http://www.merck.ph/en/index.html