The earlier lung cancer (LC) is diagnosed and treated, the greater the likelihood you will survive. For this reason, it is critical that symptoms are recognized and reported to your caregiver as early as possible. Experts claim the five-year survival rate for the disease in stage 1 exceeds 60 percent. By contrast, the five-year survival rate after the cancerous cells have metastasized to other areas of the body plummets to under ten percent.
The purpose of this article is to help you recognize the telltale signs of lung cancer – in yourself or your family. If you notice the following symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor.
This is one of the earliest symptoms of the disease, and it is often ignored. Many people contract a persistent cough and mistakenly attribute it to a cold. Making matters worse, those who suffer from asthma, allergies, or other ailments that affect the lungs, often confuse such coughing as the result of those diseases.
If the cough lasts longer than ten days, it is likely due to something other than a common cold. One way to identify a cough as a possible harbinger of lung cancer is to look for bloody sputum. If you cough up material that has a reddish tinge, contact your doctor.
Difficulty Breathing Following Physical Exertion
Breathing difficulties, like a cough, are easy to ignore or attribute to “natural” causes, such as being physically unfit (e.g. overweight). Keep in mind shortness of breath is a common indication of early-stage lung cancer. Your intuition may alert you that your breathing difficulty is due so something more serious than a lack of physical fitness. Don’t ignore your instincts. Make an appointment with your physician.
The Spread Of Pain Throughout Your Body
One of the challenges with catching LC before it spreads beyond the lungs is that it often presents no symptoms. The first indication the disease exists may be aches and pains in your back and shoulders. Many people mistake such pains as being caused by pulled muscles or similar circumstances. In reality, the cancerous cells may have spread beyond the lungs.
Once the disease metastasizes, it becomes nearly impossible to treat with surgery alone. However, a systemic approach that includes radiation therapy and chemotherapy can be used to treat it successfully.
Recurring Lung-Related Illnesses
If you suffer from recurring bouts of bronchitis and are unable to identify the cause, it’s possible the infection is due to lung cancer. The same is true for pneumonia that returns over and over. A tumor may have moved into your air passages, causing a restriction that makes these illnesses more likely to surface.
Many people have a tendency to avoid finding out the root cause of such symptoms. The danger is that neglecting them may allow early-stage lung cancer to go undetected, and thus untreated. Contact your doctor to make sure your ongoing battle with bronchitis and similar infections is unrelated to something more serious.
Minimizing Your Discomfort
Once lung cancer has been diagnosed, you’ll want to relieve your discomfort while your doctor determines an appropriate form of treatment. This can be accomplished with medications, oxygen therapy, steroids, and even nutritional counseling, depending on your symptoms.
Medications are usually necessary to help control pain caused by lung cancer. Oxygen therapy is used to minimize the discomfort that accompanies breathing difficulties. A procedure called thoracentesis may be necessary for your doctor to remove fluid from the area surrounding your lungs. If the disease has caused you to lose your appetite, you may need supplements to increase your caloric intake, and prevent excess weight loss.
Early-stage lung cancer can be treated successfully. But it is vital that the disease is caught before it spreads. If you’re experiencing symptoms that are consistent with those described above, have yourself screened as soon as possible.