The prognosis of lung cancer remains poor with overall five year survival figures varying between five and 10% worldwide, However, it has been shown that surgery in patients with early stage disease in non-small cell lung cancer can achieve five year survival rates up to 80%, suggesting that early or delay diagnosis can influence prognosis. Nevertheless, studies addressing this have been inconclusive and mostly derived from Western countries.
For a long time lung cancer was associated with a fatalistic approach by healthcare professionals. In recent years, advances in imaging, improved diagnostic techniques and more effective treatment modalities are reasons for optimism. Accurate lung cancer staging is vitally important because treatment options and prognosis differ significantly by stage. The staging algorithm should include a contrast computed tomography (CT) of the chest and the upper abdomen including adrenals, positron emission tomography/CT for staging the mediastinum and to rule out extrathoracic metastasis in patients considered for surgical resection, endosonography-guided needle sampling procedure replacing mediastinoscopy for near complete mediastinal staging, and brain imaging as clinically indicated. Applicability of evidence-based guidelines for staging of lung cancer depends on the available expertise and level of resources and is directly impacted by financial issues. Considering the diversity of healthcare infrastructure and economic performance of Asian countries, optimal and cost-effective use of staging methods appropriate to the available resources is prudent. The pulmonologist plays a central role in the multidisciplinary approach to lung cancer diagnosis, staging and management. Regional respiratory societies such as the Asian Pacific Society of Respirology should work with national respiratory societies to strive for uniform standards of care. For developing countries, a minimum set of care standards should be formulated. Cost-effective delivery of optimal care for lung cancer patients, including staging within the various healthcare systems, should be encouraged and most importantly, tobacco control implementation should receive an absolute priority status in all countries in Asia.
The efficacy of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) tyrosine kinase inhibitors in EGFR mutation-positive non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients necessitates accurate, timely testing. Although EGFR mutation testing has been adopted by many laboratories in Asia, data are lacking on the proportion of NSCLC patients tested in each country, and the most commonly used testing methods.