Lung cancer is the second most common type of cancer in males and the third most common type of cancer in females. It is the leading cause of death in the United States. It takes more lives than colon, breast, ovarian, and prostate cancer combined.
Tobacco smokers are at high risk of getting lung cancer. It can also affect people who don’t smoke, but its risk increases with the number of cigarettes and length of time a person has smoked. Quitting smoking even after smoking for many years, will reduce your risk of developing lung cancer.
Lung cancer does not show signs and symptoms at its early stages. Most of its signs and symptoms become more intense severe as it develops. Just like other types of cancer, lung cancer also cause systemic symptoms such as general fatigue and loss of appetite. Some of the most common symptoms of lung cancer are:
1. A cough that Doesn’t End
A cough that is due to a respiratory infection or cold does not last for more than two weeks. A new cough that goes for more than a week or two may be a symptom of lung cancer.
Don’t dismiss any stubborn cough that lasts for more than two weeks, whether it is dry or produces mucus. You should see your doctor right away. The doctor will listen to your lungs and may end up ordering an X-ray and other tests.
2. Breathing Changes
Becoming easily winded or shortness of breath is a common symptom of lung cancer. Most of these changes occur when lung cancer narrows or blocks an airway, or when fluids from the tumor build-up in the chest. If you start finding it difficult to breathe after climbing stairs and performing other simple tasks you once found it easy, you should seek medical attention.
3. Change in a Cough
If you smoke, you should pay attention to changes in chronic cough. Producing an unusual amount of mucus and coughing up blood shows it is time to make a doctor’s appointment. If your cough sounds hoarse or is deeper, it can be a sign of cancer. If your friend or family member experiences changes in cough, you should suggest that they make a doctor’s appointment.
4. Hoarse Voice
If your friend points out that your voice sounds raspier, hoarse, and deeper, it is time to get checked out by your medical team. Simple colds can cause hoarseness, but if it persists for more than two weeks, it might be related to lung cancer. Hoarseness due to lung cancer occurs when the tumor starts affecting the nerves that control the voice box or larynx.
Your lungs may start producing a whistling or wheezing sound when you’re breathing if the airways become constricted, inflamed, or blocked. There are multiple causes of wheezing, including benign, allergies, and asthma. Wheezing can also be a symptom of cancer, and that is why it is worth visiting your doctor to confirm the cause.
6. Pain in the Chest Area
If you’re experiencing pain in the chest, back, or shoulders, whether it is dull, sharp, intermittent, or constant, you should consider telling your doctor. You should note whether the pain is occurring throughout the chest or it is in a specific area. Chest pain as a result of lung cancer occurs as a result of metastasis or enlarged lymph nodes in the lining around the lungs or the ribs.
7. Bone Pain
Bone pain occurs when lung cancer has spread to the back or other bones in the body. Bone pain as a result of lung cancer worsens at night when you are resting on the back. Lung cancer can also be associated with neck, arm, or shoulder pain, although less common. You should be attentive to any aches and pains and make sure to discuss them with your doctor to know the causes.
There are many causes of headaches, but some headaches are symptoms of lung cancer that has spread to the brain. Headaches can also occur when a lung tumor creates pressure on the superior vena cava, which moves blood from the upper body to the lungs. The pressure exerted in this vein may cause headaches and migraines.