Recognizing the Symptoms: Lung Cancer
One of the most frightening aspects regarding this type of cancer is that according to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms do not appear until more advanced lung carcinoma stages. At least 25% of patients never get any symptoms until it is advanced. When symptoms appear, they generally take the form of:
– coughing that gets worse or does not go away
– coughing that results in blood specks
– constant chest pain
– mid-thoracic back pain with no discernible cause
– chronic shortness of breath
– a hoarse voice
– frequent, recurring lung infections like bronchitis and pneumonia
– constant fatigue
– sudden, unexplained weight loss
With the exception of coughing that results in blood, these symptoms are often overlooked because people in high-risk groups often have them to a lesser degree. This is particularly true of smokers and people living in high-pollution areas. Candidates of high-risk groups such as smokers need to know their baseline for traits that mimic symptoms, lung cancer being the type of disease that might give just a slight change to their smoker’s cough being the only warning sign.
Because symptoms are so subtle, people who smoke, who are exposed to second hand smoke, live in a known high-radon area, or who may have been exposed to asbestos at sometime in the past should consult their doctor about what types of tests or screening can help compensate for the lack of discernible symptoms for lung carcinoma. In the absence of symptoms, screening generally takes two forms: chest x-rays and sputum cytology.
This screening can help ensure that despite the lack of clear symptoms, lung cancer is diagnosed and treated while it is still in its earliest stages. According to the CDC, lung carcinoma currently accounts for more deaths annually than breast, colon and prostrate cancer combined.
It is particularly important to those people who have been treated for cancer of the lungs to be sensitive for subtle symptoms, lung cancer being a disease that has a high rate of return. Only through a combination of sensitivity to symptoms and aggressive post-treatment screening can cancer of the lung survivors hope to stay cancer-free.