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Breathe Easy

The Good News? Lung cancer is no longer the death sentence it was a decade or two ago. The bad news? More non-smokers are getting the disease.

We are all well aware of the biggest downside of a smoking habit: lung cancer. It used to be a cancer with a poor prognosis, but the advent of technology and science has reversed that.

I’m not a smoker; can I still get lung cancer?


Lung cancer, like most cancers, targets no one in particular. While one in seven smokers will eventually contract it, 30% of lung cancer patients have never smoked their entire lives. In Singapore, it is the second most diagnosed cancer for both genders, ranking just behind colorectal cancer in males, and breast and colorectal cancer in females. Worldwide, lung cancer is the most fatal of all cancers.

One known contributing factor leading to lung cancer is exposure to chemicals such as asbestos, a mineral commonly used in construction materials, which was banned in Singapore a long time ago. Genetics also play a part; the chances of contracting lung cancer is higher should an immediate relative be a lung cancer sufferer. And, as we all know, passive smokers can also contract lung cancer, so it’s definitely worth stubbing out not just for yourself, but for the sake of your loved ones.

What symptoms should I be looking out for?

Early stages of lung cancer are usually asymptomatic. By the time the signs of lung cancer appear, it would have already progressed to a late stage.Hence, screening scans can be done for smokers to nip it in the bud. 

Some of the symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Blood in sputum
  • Prolonged cough
  • Chest pain

Prevention is better than cure

It is never too late to quit smoking, for your chances of contracting cancer decrease with every smoke-free day. After a decade of stubbing out, the risk of lung cancer is halved.

How many types of lung cancer are there, and what are the treatment options available?

Lung cancer can be broadly classified into two types, small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). The former occurs almost exclusively in smokers, while the latter affects both nonsmokers and smokers.

The prognosis for small cell lung cancer is grimmer compared to NSCLC due to its rapid growth and its treatment typically involves chemotherapy. Treatment for NSCLC will depend on specific types of cancer and options include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, molecular therapy and immunotherapy.

Immunotherapy refers to a new form of treatment that harnesses the power of the body’s immune system to attack cancer cells more efficiently.

Are e-cigarettes safer than traditional cigarettes?

It is popularly thought that electronic cigarettes, or vapourisers as they are widely known, are safer alternatives compared to its traditional counterparts. But recent studies show that this may not be true after all as carcinogenic toxins have been detected in the vapours from e-cigarettes. However, as e-cigarettes are relatively new to the market, more research is required to establish the link between them and lung cancer.

Is it true that the prognosis for lung cancer is poor?

Medical advancements have made significant improvements in the fight against lung cancer. In the past, lung cancer almost always resulted in death shortly after diagnosis, but this isn’t the case these days.

Today’s lung cancer patient can expect to enjoy years of high quality of life with the right treatment and management.


Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital

38 Irrawaddy Road #09-41, Singapore 329563

Opening Hours:
Mon - Fri: 9am - 6pm
Sat: 9am - 1pm

Contact number: 6339 0233

Mount Alvernia Hospital

820 Thomson Road #07-58, Medical Centre D,
Singapore 574623

Opening Hours:
Mon - Fri: 9am - 6pm
Sat: 9am - 1pm

Contact number: 6339 0233
Fax: 6339 1338