Unlike some other types of cancers, lung cancer often has no noticeable symptoms in its early stages. However, there are some warning signs that may indicate it’s time to call your doctor.
Cancer is a disease that causes certain cells in the body to grow out of control. When the disease starts in the lungs, it is referred to as lung cancer. The lungs are a pair of spongy organs in the chest that take in oxygen when you inhale and release carbon dioxide when you exhale. In some cases, cancer may spread to the lungs from other organs. This process is called metastasis.
Lung cancer is the second most common type of cancer in the U.S. Catching it early and treating it quickly leads to the best hope of beating the disease. However, most often, lung cancer doesn’t present signs and symptoms until it’s in advanced stages, when it is harder to treat.
Risk Factors for Lung Cancer
Although people who have never smoked can develop lung cancer, smoking or being exposed to secondhand smoke is the most common cause of lung cancer. This is because smoking involves regularly inhaling a number of different toxic substances that can extensively damage the lungs. Over time, this can cause cells to act abnormally, causing cancer to develop.
The risk of lung cancer increases with the length of time and quantity of cigarettes smoked. Quitting smoking, even after smoking for many years, can significantly reduce the chances of developing lung cancer.
Warning Signs of Lung Cancer
Unlike some other types of cancer, lung cancer often has no noticeable symptoms until it’s in an advanced stage. However,early detection of lung cancer can be lifesaving, and there are early warning signs to be aware of.Warning signs and symptoms can include:
- Chronic cough – a cough that won’t go away. Visit your doctor if you have a long-standing cough (that lasts longer than 3 weeks) or a cough that gets worse.
- Coughing up blood –even if it’s just a small amount of blood or blood within mucus, you should have it investigated.
- Persistent breathlessness/shortness of breath– caused by narrowing of the airway passages, which can lead to difficulty breathing.
- Repeated chest/respiratory infections – tumors in the lungs can block the airways. This can cause frequent infections, such as bronchitis and pneumonia.
- Chest pain– a lung tumor canpress on nerves or cause tightness in the chest. This may cause pain in the chest, particularly when breathing deeply, coughing, or laughing.
Lung cancer can share similar symptoms with other health conditions, and while a cough or respiratory infection isn’t always reason to believe you have lung cancer, it is always best to have your symptoms investigated by a doctor, particularly if you are at increased risk of developing lung cancer. Other symptoms, such as persistent hoarseness, losing weight without trying, bone pain, wheezing, fatigue, and headaches, can also be lung cancer warning signs and should be investigated by a doctor.
When to Have a Lung Cancer Screening
Detecting lung cancer early and treating it quickly leads to better outcomes and is the best hope of beating the disease. Unfortunately, lung cancer often doesn’t exhibit obvious signs and symptoms until it is at a more advanced stage, when it is harder to treat. However, the good news is that lung cancer screenings are available, which help detect cancer before symptoms develop and when treatment is much more effective. The most common types of lung cancer screenings are low-dose spiral computed tomography (LDCT) scans, X-rays, and sputum cytology tests.
Yearly lung cancer screenings are typically recommended for people who are considered at high risk for developing lung cancer. This includes those that:
- Have a history of heavy smoking –smoking a 20 pack-year or more (an average of one pack of cigarettes per day for one year, such as smoking a pack a day for 20 years or two packs per day for 10 years),and
- Currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years, and
- Are age 50-80 years old
If any abnormalities are detected during a lung cancer screening, diagnostic tests such as imaging scans and a biopsy (lung tissue sample) are the next step.
How Is Lung Cancer Treated?
Non-small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer are the two major types of lung cancer, which grow differently. There are a range of treatments available. However,the exact treatment will depend on the type of lung cancer, how far it has spread, and the general health of the patient.
If you are diagnosed with lung cancer, your cancer doctor will explain what treatment options are available for your type and stage of cancer, the risks involved, and the benefits and side effects associated with each treatment,so you can make an informed decision about your treatment. Treatment may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, or a combination of treatments.
Lung and Sleep Specialists in Weatherford, TX
If you are concerned about lung cancer or are experiencing early warning signs, Lung and Sleep Specialists of North Texas can help. Our board-certified providers are able to diagnose and treat many pulmonary conditions, including lung cancer.
We will perform a thorough evaluation of your lung health and function. We will then work with you to develop a treatment plan that is personalized to your exact needs.
The experts at Lung and Sleep Specialists of North Texas provide holistic care and offer a full spectrum of pulmonary care, encompassing chronic lung conditions, critical care, sleep medicine, and allergy and immunology, to improve the health and overall quality of life for patients.