Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in both men and women and the leading cause of cancer death, according to the American Cancer Society. While you may think smokers are the only segment of the population at risk for lung cancer, you may be surprised to know that twenty percent of lung cancer deaths are people who do not smoke. The American Cancer Society explains air pollution, second-hand smoke, radon gas, and cancer-causing agents like asbestos and diesel exhaust are all major risk factors for lung cancer.
The best defense again lung cancer is knowing the early signs and symptoms. The sooner you get to your doctor and the sooner cancer is diagnosed, the better chances for recovery. Continue reading to learn the early signs and symptoms of lung cancer.
1. Frequent illness. If you’ve noticed an uptick in your frequency of illnesses like cold, flu, bronchitis, or pneumonia, you should talk to your doctor about the possible causes of your depressed immune system. Dr. Kelley says that when cancer settles in lung tissue and bronchial tubes, the lungs become more susceptible to illness.
2. Unexplained weight loss. If you’ve lost interest in food or feel full quickly after beginning to eat, lung cancer may be taking a toll on your appetite. Dr. Kelley recommends keeping a notebook to record symptoms and possible causes, such as food poisoning, food allergy, PMS in women, or gastrointestinal illness. If the cause is unexplained, bring the issue to your doctor’s attention.
3. Finger pain. You may be surprised to know that thickened, painful fingertips are a typical symptom of lung cancer. This is because lung tumors release chemicals into the bloodstream that spur bone and tissue growth in the fingertips and under the fingernails. Dr. Kelley says to tell your doctor about any thickening, swelling, or clubbing in the fingers.
4. Torso pain. If you experience a persistent dull ache in the chest, shoulder, back, or abdomen, you may be experiencing direct pressure from a lung tumor. According to Dr. Kelley, chest pain is a symptom in one out of four lung cancer patients.
5. Hoarse voice. If your voice sounds a bit husky or if you experience pain when swallowing or talking, you may have lung cancer. NHS Choices says this common symptom is a reason to call your doctor, especially when it is accompanied by a persistent cough, wheezing, or coughing up blood.
6. Shortness of breath. This is a common symptom in women that is too often misdiagnosed as a side effect of age or inactivity. But according to Very Well, shortness of breath is a sign of adenocarcinoma, the most common form of lung cancer in women.
7. Weakness in the upper limbs. Very Well explains weakness in the upper limbs, loss of coordination, and muscle cramps are all symptoms of paraneoplastic syndrome, a lung cancer-related condition in which hormone-like substances are secreted by tumors.
8. Breast growth in men. A less talked about symptom in male lung cancer patients is breast enlargement around and under the nipple. Dr. Kelley explains this is a symptom of paraneoplastic syndrome, caused by the release of hormones, proteins and other substances into the blood stream.