Health practitioners raise awareness on lung cancer and its impact on the Asian American community

LOS ANGELES — Smoking is the leading cause of the most common type of cancer globally—lung cancer.

Although more and more Americans are trying to quit the bad habit, this disease is still one of the top causes of cancer deaths in the nation.

Experts said more 430,000 people have already been diagnosed with lung cancer in the U.S., and according the American Cancer Society, almost 85 percent of cases are known as non-small cell lung cancer—which can be caused by genetic disposition.

Studies show that some ethnicities are more prone to certain mutations in lung cancer cells—allowing the tumors to grow and spread. Asian Americans—including Filipinos—are found to be one of the vulnerable groups, even to those who have never touched a cigarette in their lives.

In an effort to educate the public, a group of cancer experts comprised of doctors, community health advocated and pharmaceutical company AstraZenica hosted a forum in Los Angeles.

Doctor Alex Makalinao, one of the leading Oncologists and Hematologists in California, explained that everyone should be proactive about getting screened by their doctors, especially as we age.

“At the age of 40, you’re starting to produce these genetic abnormalities and you just get triggered as you grow and you age. And remember your body ages also, it’s able to do what its suppose to do anymore.”

The experts explained that:
• Genetic mutation is one of the biggest causes of lung cancer trigger
• Biomarker testing for signs for abnormal processes or diseases is crucial for diagnosis
• EGFR biomarker abnormality, tested to be present in over 20 percent of lung cancer cases—is more prevalent in the Asian American community— higher than any other ethnic groups
•   New targeted therapies have been showing positive results — if the EGFR mutation is detected.

The doctors added that biomarker testing to detect cancer can be done by biopsy or a blood test.

But doctor Malalinao also stressed that any cultural stigma about cancer should be dispelled—and financial hardship should not hinder anyone who may show symptoms or have been diagnosed from seeking immediate treatment—because drug companies may help.

“You just need to go to the right doctor, and all these companies and testing are generous in giving and foregoing the costs,” he said.

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