Lung Cancer in young adults

Lung Cancer in young adults

dr arvind kumar

Lung cancer is most often regarded as an older person’s disease, but this is not always true. Lung cancer can affect the younger population as well. However, lung cancer is less commonly diagnosed in young people as compared to the elderly. According to the American Cancer Society, the average age at which lung cancer is most commonly diagnosed is 70 years. Around 53% of these lung cancer cases are diagnosed between the age of 55 to 74 and 37% in people above 75 years of age. According to an article published in the Translational Lung Cancer Research, around 10% of cases of lung cancer occur in people below 55 years of age. As per a study published in the Journal of Cancer in 2019, approximately 1.4% of cases of lung cancer were diagnosed in the younger population, that is, those below 35 years of age.

So in this article, let us learn all about lung cancer at a young age, its type, survival rate, treatment, and the cost of lung transplantation.

What type of lung cancer occurs in young adults?

The most common type of lung cancer that is predominantly diagnosed in people at a young age is adenocarcinoma. It is a form of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) wherein the cells forming the outer lining of the lungs become cancerous. Lung cancer is diagnosed at a more advanced stage in young adults. In almost 70% of cases of lung cancer in adults, the condition is diagnosed at stage IV which is known as metastatic cancer. Metastasis refers to the condition in which lung cancer has spread to other locations in the body as well. In the younger population, cancer most commonly spreads to the brain, liver, bones, lung tissue, and the lining of the lungs. This is an extremely challenging stage to cure.

What is the survival rate of lung cancer in young adults?

The lung cancer in young adults survival rate largely depends on the stage at which the cancer is diagnosed. According to the American Cancer’s Society (ACS), International Agency for Research on Cancer, and Cancer Facts and Figures 2022, the 5-year survival rate is 22% for all types of lung cancer. This includes an 18% 5-year survival rate for men and 25% for women. In the case of NSCLC specifically, the 5-year survival rate is around 26% as compared to 7% which is for small cell lung cancer. Out of this, the survival rate for localized NSCLC is 63%, regional NSCLC is 35%, and for metastatic lung cancer, it is 7%. The 5-year survival rate refers to the percentage of people who have survived for at least 5 years after they were diagnosed with lung cancer.

What is the available treatment for lung cancer in adults?

The diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer in adults are not very different from the one carried out in the elderly population. Lung cancer at a young age can be diagnosed through imaging tests like computed tomography (CT Scan), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or investigative procedures like sputum cytology or bronchoscopy. Your doctor will also advise a biopsy for the diagnosis of lung cancer.

The treatment of lung cancer in young adults is majorly dependent on what stage and grade the lung cancer is diagnosed. The several options available for lung cancer treatment in adults include:

  • Surgery: The surgical treatment of lung cancer is usually done when it is diagnosed at stages I, II, or III.
  • Chemotherapy can be given to destroy lung cancer cells.
  • Radiation therapy can be given as an add-on treatment either before or after the surgery to reduce the size of the tumour. Radiation therapy can also be given along with chemotherapy.
  • Immunotherapy: This treatment uses drugs to facilitate a defensive immune response against the cancerous cells in stages III and IV. The most commonly used drugs for immunotherapy are nivolumab and pembrolizumab.
  • Targeted therapy: It is a more advanced or recent treatment for lung cancer wherein a newer class of drugs is used to treat lung cancer. Lung cancer is very commonly associated with genetic mutations. It is found that genetic mutations in genes like EGFR, ROS1, ALK4-EML are more common in younger adults than the elderly population. The drugs used in targeted therapy bind with a specific receptor on mutated cancer cells. Since these specifically bind to the receptor, the methodology has fewer side effects and is much more effective. There are several drugs that are now approved to be used for targeted therapy.

What does lung cancer treatment cost?

The lung cancer treatment cost is highly variable. It largely depends on what stage of lung cancer it is, what treatment is given to you, whether or not chemotherapy or radiotherapy is given to you, and what drugs are prescribed to you for treatment. The surgical lung transplant cost is also dependent on the type of surgery that you need, that is, whether you require single, bilateral, or a combined surgery. Other factors that may determine the lung cancer treatment cost are the hospital and the skill and expertise of the surgeon who performs your surgery.

At the end

Lung cancer is becoming more and more common in the younger population in both males and females. The main cause of the increasing occurrence is still unknown. The late diagnosis of lung cancer makes the treatment of the disease more difficult. However, this does not mean that lung cancer cannot be treated especially after the approval of targeted therapy and our advancements in lung cancer surgery. An early diagnosis of lung cancer can make the treatment more effective. Now that you know that lung cancer can affect you at a younger age as well, make sure that you do not take any symptoms lightly and consult your doctor in case of any discomfort.

People also ask

1. Does lung cancer spread quickly?

Yes, lung cancer is a very aggressive form of cancer that can spread rapidly in your body.

2. What stage is lung cancer usually diagnosed?

Lung cancer in young adults is usually diagnosed in stage III or IV.

3. What are the symptoms of early lung cancer?

The major symptoms of lung cancer in stage I are persistent and chronic cough, presence of blood in the mucus, shortness of breath, consistent chest pain, and frequent lung infection.