Lung Cancer: Warning Signs
By Francis Taylor, Executive Editor
Lung cancer is an awful disease that develops when cells divide and mutate uncontrollably. It is the third most common cancer in the United States. Over time, cancer prevents your lungs from working properly, resulting in unpleasant symptoms.
According to the National Cancer Institute, lung cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States. It’s estimated that there are over 200,000 new cases each year. Unfortunately, it often goes undiagnosed until it’s in an advanced stage. But cancer screenings offer hope in detecting cancer early. One way you can protect your health is by getting informed.
Unfortunately, the American Cancer Society says most lung cancers don’t cause any symptoms until the disease has spread. But there are still early warning signs you should be on the lookout for that could indicate lung cancer. For starters, the Cleveland Clinic says a persistent cough or pneumonia that keeps coming back after treatment can be an early warning sign of lung cancer. Other warning signs include: a cough that doesn’t go away, a cough that gets worse, shortness of breath, chest pain, hoarseness, loss of appetite, unexplained weight loss, fatigue and weakness, and new onset wheezing.
Several of these symptoms can indicate something far less serious, but it’s always important to have any new or persistent symptoms checked by a doctor.
If lung cancer goes undetected it can spread to other parts of the body. This can cause more advanced symptoms. The American Cancer Society says to watch for the following signs that cancer has spread to other areas of the body: bone pain, yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice), which occurs if cancer spreads to the liver, swelling of the lymph nodes, and nervous system changes if cancer spreads to the brain. This can be presented as headaches, dizziness, weakness, balance problems, and seizures.
The American Cancer Society says 80-percent of lung cancer fatalities are caused by smoking. And unfortunately, the source also notes that many other cases are caused by exposure to secondhand smoke.
Though smoking is the leading cause, not everyone who smokes develops lung cancer. Many other factors such as genetics could play a role. According to the Cleveland Clinic, up to 20-percent of people with lung cancer have never smoked. So, if this is the case, the American Cancer Society says other causes include secondhand smoke, exposure to radon (a naturally occurring radioactive gas), and air pollution. Exposure to harsh chemicals, diesel exhaust, and asbestos in the workplace can also lead to lung cancer for some people. The source also notes that in a few cases, lung cancer develops with no known risk factors. While it may be due to random events, the source says it could also be caused by factors that haven’t been discovered yet.
If you’re showing signs of lung cancer or are at risk, you should contact your doctor right away. Diagnosing lung cancer typically starts with a physical exam, reviewing your medical history, and your current symptoms. During the physical exam, your doctor will listen to your heart and lungs.
People who have a high risk of developing lung cancer should be screened. Johns Hopkins Medicine says the following are criteria for high-risk individuals: a history of heavy smoking (at least a pack per day for 30-years), current or former smokers who quit within the past 15-years, and if you are between the ages of 55 to 80.
If you’re worried about your risk of lung cancer, contact your doctor. They can help determine if you’re at risk, whether you should be screened, and help you develop healthy habits to reduce your risk.