In the UK alone, it is believed that as many as 1 in every 14 people will be diagnosed with lung cancer at some point during their life. Of those, only 27% will survive for more than one year after their diagnosis. However, of sufferers diagnosed in the first stage of lung cancer (either 1A or 1B), between 43-78% will survive for up to five years after diagnosis. These statistics are a clear indication that, where survival rates are concerned, early diagnosis of lung cancer is a crucial factor. Unfortunately most cases of lung cancer are only discovered in the later stages of the disease, where the one-year survival rates can drop as low as 10%.
With that in mind, it pays to know what the early signs and symptoms of lung cancer are so that you (or your loved ones) can get to a doctor for a proper consultation at the earliest possible point. The following is a list of early warning signs that (although are by no means a sure-fire way of spotting lung cancer) might indicate you need to go for a check-up.
Coughing: Coughing is caused by many common illnesses and infections, and can often go ignored. However, if a cough persists for several weeks or becomes more intense over a period of time, it could be an indication of lung cancer. This is especially true if an individual coughs up large quantities of mucus or mucus that is tinged with blood.
Pain: Particularly in the chest, shoulder and back, and unrelated to the pain caused by coughing.
Noises when breathing: If an individual’s breathing sounds laboured or wheezy (the technical term is “stridor”) it can indicate a potential medical emergency, even in cases where cancer is not a risk, and as such when it occurs medical help should be sought out. Causes other than lung cancer include obstructions to air flow in the respiratory system due to aspirated food or allergic reactions.
Loss of appetite/ weight loss: Many cancers result in seemingly unexplainable weight loss or a lack of desire to eat. Again, this should be taken very seriously.
Fatigue: The decrease in proper lung function caused by cancer can lead to reduced oxygen levels in the blood, thus reducing oxygen supply to the muscles and organs. This causes muscle wastage (cachexia) which is, in itself, cause for concern. Having a general understanding of these early symptoms will better place you to keep an eye on your health and have any concern looked into without delay.