Fatal delay in cancer diagnoses

Up to 80 percent of all new lung cancer cases in Greece are diagnosed once sufferers are beyond the point of no return, experts warned yesterday, urging all heavy smokers aged over 40 to undergo regular tests for the fatal disease. Between 4,000-5,000 people die of lung cancer and over 6,000 are diagnosed with the disease every year in Greece, Professor Panayiotis Behrakis, head of the Hellenic Thoracic Society, told a press conference ahead of the six-day annual congress on chest diseases that opens in Athens tomorrow. Although 85 percent of sufferers are smokers, air pollution – and dust particles in particular – is also a major cause, with smokers in the countryside less likely to develop the disease than city-dwelling tobacco afficionados. Behrakis said four out of five patients are diagnosed with lung cancer too late, when it is no longer possible to operate, and rarely live on for longer than three years. He called on all Greeks aged over 40-45 who smoke more than 20 cigarettes a day to have their lungs checked at least once a year. Greeks are Europe’s heaviest smokers.