Lung cancer refers to cancer that begins in the lungs. According to the American Cancer Society, there are two main types of lung cancer: non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer (SCLC). NSCLC is the most common type of lung cancer, accounting for about 85 percent of all cases. The three main subtypes of NSCLC are adenocarcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and large cell carcinoma. SCLC accounts for the remaining 15 percent of lung cancers.
Lung cancer is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. The most important risk factor for developing lung cancer is smoking cigarettes. Other risk factors include exposure to secondhand smoke, radon gas, asbestos, and air pollution. There are several symptoms associated with lung cancer, though they may vary depending on the type and stage of the disease. If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to see your doctor right away so that the cause can be determined and appropriate treatment can be initiated. Here are some of the most common symptoms to be aware of.
Sudden or chronic coughing
A chronic cough is a symptom of many different underlying conditions, so it’s not always a sign of lung cancer. A chronic cough may be caused by a cold, the flu, allergies, or other respiratory illnesses. However, if you have a cough that lasts for more than three weeks and is accompanied by other symptoms, it’s important to see a doctor. According to Medical News Today, signs that your cough may be linked to cancer include coughing up blood, wheezing, and shortness of breath. People who have a history of smoking should also be concerned about a new cough. If your cough gets worse over time, you may be at risk of lung cancer.
A normal cough will typically be linked to an irritant or illness and should not last more than a week or two. If you have a cough that won’t go away or you aren’t sure why you are coughing, scheduled an appointment with your doctor, especially if you have a high risk of developing lung cancer.
Chest pain is not always a sign of lung cancer, but it can be. A lung tumor can put pressure on your chest when you laugh, talk, cough, or breathe (via Johns Hopkins Medicine). Lung cancer can also cause pain in areas around the lungs, such as the back and shoulders. If your chest pain is accompanied by any of the other symptoms on this list, there is a chance you may have lung cancer.
Chest pain is a serious symptom that should never be treated lightly. It may be associated with a heart attack or breathing problems (via Mayo Clinic). Severe, stabbing pain is often the most serious, but dull or aching pain should not be ignored, especially if it lasts for an extended period of time. Chest pain can also be a sign of other, less serious conditions such as heartburn, anxiety, or muscle strain. If you experience chest pain, it is important to seek medical attention so that a doctor can determine the cause.
Lung cancer is one of the deadliest forms of cancer, and difficulty breathing is often one of the first symptoms that people notice. While not all lung cancer patients experience shortness of breath, it is a common symptom, particularly in later stages of the disease (via Healthline). Lung cancer can cause your airways to constrict, which may make it more difficult to breathe normally. If you are experiencing difficulty breathing, it is important to see a doctor right away, as this could be a sign of lung cancer.
While there are many potential causes of difficulty breathing, lung cancer is one of the more serious possibilities. The lungs are vital organs that enable us to breathe, and when they are not functioning properly, it can be very difficult to get enough oxygen into our bodies. According to Mayo Clinic, difficulty breathing can also be caused by other health conditions, such as heart disease or COPD. However, if you are experiencing this symptom and you have never had any lung problems before, it is important to get checked out by a doctor.
Unexplained weight loss
Unexplained weight loss is often a sign of many types of cancer, including lung cancer. When cancer cells grow, they use up a lot of energy, which can lead to weight loss, according to Healthline. Cancer cells also release substances that can change the way the body uses food, which can also lead to weight loss. If you have lost more than 10 pounds for no apparent reason, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor to figure out what’s going on.
Other causes of sudden weight loss include diabetes, depression, hyperthyroidism, and Parkinson’s disease (via Mayo Clinic). Stress and anxiety can also affect how much you eat, leading to weight loss. Whether you suspect you have cancer or another health condition, you should always talk to your doctor about unexplained weight loss. Regardless of your current weight, it is never a good sign when you start to lose a lot of weight for no apparent reason.
Recurring lung problems
If you have chronic bronchitis, pneumonia, emphysema, or other lung issues that don’t go away or keep coming back, it could be a sign of lung cancer. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, lung tumors can block your airways and make you more prone to infection. This can lead to a variety of lung issues. Even if you don’t have lung cancer, these issues will need to be treated before they get any worse.
Bronchitis is typically treated with medicine and lifestyle changes (via WebMD). Pneumonia and emphysema (damage to the lungs’ air sacs) may require hospitalization. If you have any of these lung issues, it’s important to see a doctor so they can rule out lung cancer or other serious problems. If you do have lung cancer, it is important that it is treated early, as early detection and treatment of lung cancer can improve your chances of survival. Lung cancer is treated with a variety of methods depending on the severity of the cancer.