Lung Cancer – the disturbing facts

As we come to the end Lung Cancer Awareness Month here at Cancer Pro, we wanted to share with you some of the disturbing facts that demonstrate just how serious Lung Cancer is both here at home in Malaysia and around the world.

Hard to find

The key reason why lung cancer is so deadly is that it is incredibly hard to find in its early stages. It can take years for lung cancer to grow and because usually there are no symptoms early on. By the time a person begins to notice symptoms, the cancer, has quite often spread to other parts of the body.

Lung Cancer – the disturbing global facts

  • Lung cancer continues to be one of the most common cancers worldwide, claiming more lives yearly than breast, colon, and prostate cancers combined.
  • Lung cancer causes the most cancer deaths worldwide, accounting for 2.1 million new cases and 1.8 million deaths annually.
  • More than half of people with lung cancer die within one year of being diagnosed.
  • In 1987, lung cancer surpassed breast cancer to become the leading cause of cancer deaths in women.
  • The most frequently diagnosed cancer is lung cancer (11.6%), followed by female breast (12.0%) and colorectal cancers (10.2%).
  • Worldwide lung cancer incidents are on track to increase by 38% to 2.89 million by 2030.
  • Lung cancer is the leading cause of death from cancer at 1.74 million (18.4%), followed by colorectal (9.2%) and stomach cancers (8.2%).
  • Lung cancer deaths exceed breast cancer mortality for women in 28 countries, and mortality rates are projected to reach 2.45 million worldwide by 2030, a 39% increase since 2018.
  • About 80% of lung cancer deaths result from smoking tobacco. Smokers exposed to other known risk factors such as radon and asbestos are at an even higher risk.

Lung Cancer – The challenges facing Malaysia

  • According to 2018 GLOBOCAN database from the World Health Organisation (WHO), lung cancer continues to be the most common cancer in men and the third most common cancer in Malaysia.
  • In 2018 some 4,686 new cases of lung cancer were diagnosed in Malaysian, with 70% of the cases being diagnosed in men and 30% in women.
  • According to the 2018 Malaysian Study on Cancer Survival (MySCan), lung cancer recorded the lowest survival rate among all the cancers.
  • The average five-year survival rate from diagnosis for a prostate cancer patient in Malaysia is 73 per cent, breast cancer is 67 per cent and colon cancer 57 per cent, versus lung cancer at only 11%.
  • Part of the reason there is such poor survival rates for lung cancer here in Malaysia is because 90% of Malaysians are diagnosed with lung cancer at an advanced stage.

What role does smoking have to play in Lung Cancer?

Smoking remains the leading cause of lung cancer. It is estimated that 25% of Malaysians are smokers and they are up to 20 times more likely to develop lung cancer.

However, that’s not to say that non-smokers are immune from lung cancer. There is an increasing trend for lung cancer in non-smokers, currently estimated at 20-30% of all cases and strangely enough, it is often women in their 20s and 30s that present the symptoms.

While the cause of this remains undetermined, studies show it could be related to environmental pollution, occupational hazards and even exposure to cooking oil fumes and wok frying.

Spotting the early warning signs of Lung Cancer

Despite the rising rates, the majority of lung cancer cases in Malaysia are being diagnosed, at a very late stage. The reason for this is often down to the fact that the early warning symptoms such as a persistent cough, pain in the chest, shortness of breath or weight loss. Can often be overlooked as these are typically associated as being caused by sicknesses like an upper respiratory tract infection or as a result of long-term smoking.

Sometimes, it is only, when the tumour has grown, and spread (metastasised) do patients experience more intense symptoms like coughing up blood or breathlessness when doing daily activities, and they finally seek medical attention.

Why is lung cancer so prevalent in men?

One of the key contributing factors to why lung cancer is prevalent in men is that men are harder to motivate to attend health check-ups compared to women who have more diligent health-seeking habits.

Which, when considering that even when detected late, the survival rates for advanced stages of lung cancer has improved tremendously over the past decade, should be more than enough reason to undergo regular checks and screenings.

About Cancer Pro

Cancer Pro is the voice of the worlds cancer physicians and oncology professionals in Malaysia and is the trusted compassionate, resource for people with cancer, their families and caregivers. For more facts concerning Lung Cancer, please visit www.

(With thanks to the American Lung Association, World Lung Cancer day 2020 and the 2018 GLOBOCAN database)