Doctors find lung cancer in patients screened for Covid

Bengaluru doctors find early-stage lung cancer in patients screened for Covid

Doctors say patients are lucky to receive early diagnosis of their cancers since a majority of such cancers are detected in stage two

Representative Image. Credit: iStockPhoto

Covid patients who are sent for HRCT (High-resolution CT) scans are fortuitously learning about their early-stage lung cancers and tumours, enabling them to get timely treatment.

While HRCT scans are taken to determine the extent of lung involvement and severity of the Covid infection, doctors say patients are lucky to receive early diagnosis of their cancers since a majority of such cancers are detected in stage two (big tumour with lymph nodes affected) or three (locally advanced).

Among hospitals, Manipal detected four lung cancer patients, People Tree found three, Rajarajeshwari Medical College and Narayana Health found two patients each.

“Until lung cancer patients exhibit symptoms, their condition isn’t detected,” said Dr Vivek G, Consultant Interventional Pulmonologist at Raghavendra People Tree Hospitals and Rajarajeshwari Medical College and Hospital. “Any weakness they feel would be attributed to other factors and so it is not detected until it reaches a higher stage. Only when they get an X-ray or CT scan, it is picked up.”

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So many tumour cases were found when patients were screened for Covid-19, the pulmonologist said. Two of his patients at People Tree were found with stage three and advanced-stage cancer. One of them had tumours that had metastasised to other organs.

“A stage three cancer patient is generally operated upon, and the tumour is surgically removed. Based on the phenotype, we will provide chemotherapy. In advanced stages, surgery cannot be done and we can only provide palliative care to reduce their pain and provide symptomatic relief,” he said.

Dr Satyanarayana Mysore, Pulmonology HOD and Lung Transplant Physician, Manipal Hospitals, told DH that doctors found lung cancer in four patients aged above 65, two of them women, who were originally admitted as Covid patients. He urged high-risk Covid patients with advanced age, a smoking habit and a family history with cancer to get CT scans.

“One woman was in the advanced stage but had no symptoms,” Dr Satyanarayana said.

“Lung cancer patients generally have varied symptoms like chest pain, unexplained cough, certain neurological symptoms and neuromuscular weakness. Another patient, whose survival chances are good, has recovered from Covid and is yet to start chemotherapy for stage two lung cancer.”

Dr Vivek Padegal, Director of Pulmonology at Fortis Hospital, said he fortuitously found lung cancer in 12 Covid patients. Doctors have to wait at least three weeks to perform bronchoscopy and biopsy till Covid patients became less infective.

“During the waiting time, we did sputum tests and ultrasound-guided taps that could be done in Covid wards. But we have to wait till they recover from Covid to start them on chemotherapy,” he said.

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