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Lung cancer kills approximately 1.5 million people each year. While it is a serious and potentially lethal form of cancer, the disease itself is not a definite death sentence. Those individuals who receive an early diagnosis stand a 50 percent greater chance of survival than those who go undiagnosed and untreated while their cancer metastasizes (spreads) throughout the body. Here are five symptoms and warning signs of lung cancer that could potentially save lives.
1. No Symptoms in Early Stages–It is not uncommon for this form of cancer to not produce any noticeable symptoms in its early stages. In fact, nearly 40 percent of patients are diagnosed in the disease’s advanced stages. Moreover, one-third of patients are not diagnosed until the disease has reached Stage 3.
2. Shortness of Breath–Labored breathing or wheezing could be indicative of several conditions. However, if someone discovers they are short of breath while performing ordinary, everyday activities that do not typically make one winded, it might be a warning sign that something is wrong. While shortness of breath can have many causes, it should be checked out as soon as possible. If cancer is discovered, survival rates are much better when the disease is detected early and treated aggressively.
3. Persistent Cough–Another symptom and warning sign of lung cancer to be aware of is if a person has a stubborn cough that will not let up or go away. The presence of such a cough could be a cause for concern and indicate a lung issue. However, lung cancer is not a foregone conclusion. Coughs associated with lung cancer may be dry or productive. The telltale sign is that a cough persists for longer than eight weeks with no other apparent cause. Moreover, many patients report that a cough is present during the day but worse at night, which results in loss of productivity, fatigue, and loss of sleep. Unfortunately, many people blame this symptom on a seasonal illness, cold, allergies, or flu and they might not get it checked out right away. Thus, a cancer diagnosis may be delayed in many cases.
4. Chest Pain–A chief symptom of lung cancer to watch out for is chest pain that is felt deep within the lungs when someone coughs, laughs, or lifts something. This is often associated with persistent pain in the chest that also does not go away. This chest pain might be present because a tumor is pressing against surrounding organs and tissues, as well as nerve endings, as the growth increases in size. If the cancer spreads to other parts of the body, these areas are also likely to be affected by pain. This form of cancer frequently metastasizes in the bones. Therefore, if a person is experiencing bone pain (e.g. hips, back, thighs, etc.), coupled with chest pain, it is recommended that the person consult a physician right away.
5. Headaches–The sudden onset of headaches could be a sign that lung cancer has metastasized to the brain. However, not all headaches in patients with lung cancer are associated with brain metastases. In many cases, a lung tumor is positioned in such a way that it creates pressure on the superior vena cava, which is the large vein that carries blood from the upper body to the heart. This pressure can also trigger headaches in cancer patients.
Given that lung cancer claims nearly 1.5 million lives each year, it is a serious and potentially lethal form of cancer. However, the disease does not guarantee a death sentence. Those individuals who receive an early diagnosis stand a much better chance of survival than those who go undiagnosed and untreated while their cancer runs rampant throughout the body. Hopefully, awareness of the symptoms and warning signs of lung cancer mentioned in this article will help to save and prolong many lives.
Written and Edited By Leigh Haugh
Healthline–9 Signs of Lung Cancer
Activebeat–10 Warning Signs of Lung Cancer
American Cancer Society–Signs and Symptoms of Lung Cancer
Top Article and Inline Body X-Ray Images Courtesy of WikiMedia Commons – Creative Commons License