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. You might be surprised to know that 20 percent of lung cancer deaths occur in people who do not smoke. The American Cancer Society explains that air pollution, secondhand smoke, radon gas and cancer-causing agents such as asbestos and diesel exhaust are all major risk factors for lung cancer.
The best defense against lung cancer is knowing the early signs and symptoms. The earlier lung cancer is diagnosed, the better the chances are for survival and recovery. Continue reading to learn the early signs and symptoms of lung cancer.
1. Frequent illness. If you've noticed an uptick in the frequency of illnesses such as colds, flu, bronchitis or pneumonia, talk to your doctor about the possible causes of your depressed immune system. Dr. William D. 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. 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. Tell your doctor about any thickening, swelling or clubbing in the fingers.
4. Torso pain. A persistent dull ache in the chest, shoulder, back or abdomen can result from the pressure of 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 — especially if it's accompanied by a persistent cough, wheezing, or coughing up blood — NHS Choices advises you to call your doctor. Lung cancer is among the conditions these can indicate.
6. Shortness of breath. This is a common symptom in women that is too often misdiagnosed as an effect of age or inactivity. According to Very Well, however, shortness of breath is a sign of adenocarcinoma, the most common form of lung cancer in women.
7. Weakness in the upper limbs. According to Very Well, weakness in the upper limbs, loss of coordination, and muscle cramps can be symptomatic of paraneoplastic syndrome, a lung cancer-related condition in which hormone-like substances are secreted by tumors.
8. Breast growth in men. A lesser-known symptom in male lung cancer patients is breast enlargement around and under the nipple. Dr. Kelley explains that this is a symptom of paraneoplastic syndrome, caused by the release of hormones, proteins and other substances into the bloodstream.
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