When in an early stage, lung cancer has no noticeable symptoms. It is estimated that in 40 percent of patients that had lung cancer, the cancer was diagnosed after the disease had already progressed. And in one third of the patients, lung cancer is diagnosed at stage 3.
Here are the early symptoms of lung cancer, that can make good pointers for catching this horrible disease in it’s early stage.
Coughs That Won’t Stop
Be careful if the cough lasts longer than usual. When you catch a cold or have a respiratory infection the cough will be gone after a week or two. On the other hand persistent cough which doesn’t stop can be a sign of lung cancer. So if you cough for a longer period of time, with mucus or without, don’t think it is just a cold but go and visit your doctor who will check your lungs and you may need to have x-rays or some other tests.
Changes in Cough
Particularly if you are a smoker, you need to be more careful if there are some changes in chronic cough. These changes may include: frequent coughing with hoarse and deeper sound, coughing up blood or excessive mucus .If you have these symptoms immediately visit your doctor. And if someone close to you has these symptoms advise him/her to visit the doctor as well.
Being often out of breath is a possible symptom of a lung cancer and occurs as a result of blocking and narrowing the airways by the cancer as well as from fluid accumulated in the chest by lung tumor. So pay attention if you are short of breath often, for example when you bring groceries, when you climb stairs or you perform actions which didn’t make you feel breathless before, visit a doctor.
Pain in the Chest Area
Pain in the back, chest or in shoulder can be also caused by lung cancer which is rarely linked with coughing. Inform your doctor if you suffer from chest pain whether it is constant, comes and goes or it is dull. Also pay attention if the pain occurs only in a single area or appears throughout the chest. Chest pain which is a result of lung cancer is due to metastasis to the chest wall, pleura (lining around the lungs), or the ribs or because of enlarged lymph nodes.
When you breathe, if a wheezing or whistling sound appears, it may occur due to blocked, inflamed or constricted airway. Don’t panic immediately because wheezing can be a sign of various medical conditions which are benign and curable. But it can be lung cancer symptom as well, so you need to consult your doctor. If the wheezing is prolonged don’t think that it is asthma or allergies, let your doctor confirm the diagnosis.
Raspy, Hoarse Voice
Immediately visit a doctor if you or someone else notices that your voice is deeper, raspier or hoarse. These symptoms can be linked with simple cold but if they last more than two weeks you should start to worry. Hoarseness caused by lung cancer appears when the tumor affects the nerve which controls the voice box or larynx,
Drop in Weight
Lung cancer or another type of cancer can also cause rapid weight loss -10 pounds or more. This is due to cancer cells which are using the energy from the body as well as from the way the body uses the energy obtained from food.
Pain which occur in the back or in other areas can be caused by lung cancer which is spread to the bones. This pain becomes more severe during the night while sleeping on the back. Furthermore this type of cancer is linked with arm, neck and shoulder pain although rarely. In any case you need to pay attention to any kind of pain and to inform your doctor about it.
If the lung cancer has spread to the brain, than headache is the symptom. Though, not all headaches are linked with brain metastases. In some case the lung tumor can press the main vena cava, the larger vein which takes the blood from upper body into the heart. This can also cause headache.
Easy Screening May Help
Early stage cancer cannot be discovered with chest x-rays. On the other hand, according to study from 2011, low-dose computed tomography (CT) scans are proven to help in reducing lung cancer mortality by 20%. In this study, 53,454 people at high risk for lung cancer had a low-dose CT scan or an X-ray. The low-dose CT scans were more successful in discovering lung cancer.
Aimed at High-Risk Patients
Due to this study the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended people which are more prone to this disease to have low-dose CT screening. This is recommended to people who:
- are 55 to 79 old
- have smoked within the past 15 years
- have a 30 year or more history of smoking
Consult your doctor about whether low-dose CT screening is suitable for you.