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Saudi Arabia’s Fight Against Lung Cancer: Progress and Challenges

Lung cancer is one of the deadliest malignancies, claiming 1.5 million lives worldwide annually. It is the fifth most common cancer among men in Saudi Arabia and the seventh most common overall. Lung cancer screening, early diagnosis, and precise treatment can save lives. This article explores how we can provide lung cancer patients and the general public with comprehensive support to ensure access to the best treatment and quality of life.

Lung Cancer Screening

Diagnosing lung cancer in the initial stages is indisputably valuable. Survival rates change from 85 percent in stage 1 to an abysmal 1 percent in stage 4. Computed tomography (CT) scan using lower doses of radiation (called low-dose CT) is the strategy of choice for lung cancer screening. Sputum testing and X-rays are ineffective for early detection of lung cancer. 

Healthcare providers may need bronchoscopy and biopsy to confirm a lung cancer diagnosis and differentiate the type. Positron emission tomography (PET) helps you judge the spread and stage of lung cancer. In addition, an endobronchial ultrasound scan (EBUS) will let you take a biopsy from the mediastinal lymph nodes. You could also consider thoracoscopy or mediastinoscopy, though these procedures require general anesthesia.

Screening Strategy

An effective screening program can reduce lung cancer mortality by 20 percent. Mass screening is not recommended in Saudi Arabia, but targeted screening holds promise. You can consider offering lung cancer screening to the following high-risk populations:

  • Individuals aged 50 to 74 years
  • Current smokers or those who quit in the last 15 years
  • Those who have smoked 30 pack-years (one pack a day for 30 years or two packs a day for 15 years)

It’s also recommended to evaluate people with symptoms suggestive of lung cancer, such as:

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Hemoptysis or coughing up blood
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Frequent pneumonia

These symptoms often signify late-stage lung cancer. Diagnosis after symptoms appear has a poor prognosis.

It is also crucial to raise the public’s lung cancer awareness. Healthcare providers should screen patients for smoking and provide counselling. You can refer smokers to a smoking cessation program if necessary.

Any screening program for lung cancer should include help for smoking cessation. This will reduce the likelihood of cancer in people who stop. If you detect lung cancer, smoking cessation is even more important. Cancer treatments are less effective in people who continue to smoke, and they also have a higher risk of complications and death.

Smoking is growing in popularity in Saudi Arabia — about 28.9 percent of Saudi men smoke and are at risk for lung cancer. You can prevent lung cancer suffering and mortality by providing counselling and lung cancer screening. 

Stay Current With MDBriefCase

Help improve lung cancer care. Access free accredited courses on MDBriefCase designed to keep you up-to-date on the current landscape of lung cancer and optimal treatment approaches: 

Lung Cancer: Risk Factors, Newly Approved Therapies and the Role of the Pharmacist in Lung Cancer Therapy

Enhancing Oncology Care for Breast and Lung Cancer Patients in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia