Lung cancer is one of the world’s deadliest killers, claiming the lives of approximately 1.3 million people every year. But that doesn’t mean being diagnosed with lung cancer has only one end in sight. Early diagnosis is essential in the treatment of the disease and to also prevent it from spreading to other parts of the body.
Here are some of the earliest warning signs of lung cancer. Being aware of them could save your life!
1. Labored Breathing
Feeling out of breath might not seem like that dramatic of a thing as to concern you about lung cancer. But if it’s been happening repeatedly, while doing things that you were fine doing previously, and if you’re at an increased risk of being diagnosed (maybe due to family history), it’s definitely something you should bring up to your doctor.
Shortness of breath could also be caused by a variety of other reasons, but since it’s best to be diagnosed as early as possible, it’s better to be cautious.
2. Peristent Cough
A stubborn cough that won’t seem to go away even with medication could be a sign that there is an issue in your lungs. Although coughs are mainly associated with a common cold or allergy, one that lasts longer than eight weeks is worrisome. A cough caused by lung issues is dry or productive and leaves your voice sounding hoarse and raspy.
Most lung cancer patients who also complain of cough report that although it occurs throughout the day, it gets significantly worse at night, leading to loss of sleep, fatigue, and loss of productivity and motivation as a result.
3. Decreasing Weight
“You lucky duck!” someone might say if you told them you were losing weight without really trying to, but there’s nothing “lucky” about unexpected weight loss that cannot be explained by a change in lifestyle, diet, or physical activity. Cancer-related weight loss is often also accompanied by a lack of appetite.
The weight loss could be your body’s way of telling you it’s fighting against a tumor. In some extreme cases, a condition called cachexia may be the cause, in which the body literally wastes away causing muscle and body fat deterioration, as it searches for any possible source of energy.
4. Chest Pain
One of the major symptoms of lung disease is a pain felt deep in your lungs when performing activities like lifting something, or even when you cough or laugh. If it seems to be happening more often than not, it should be a reason for caution. It indicates that the growing cancer is pressing against the surrounding tissues and nerve endings as it becomes bigger.
In instances where the lung cancer has spread to the other parts of the body, they may also be affected by pain. One place lung cancer metastasizes commonly is in the bones, so if you are experiencing bone pain, especially in the back or hips (and you also have chest pains), consult your doctor immediately.
5. Hand & Finger Pain
Other warning signs of lung cancer that most people tend to ignore include fatigue and aches in your fingers. A disfiguring symptom called “tripe palms”, named so due to its appearance occurs in more than 35% of stomach cancer and 11% of lung cancer patients.
Here, the skin of the palm thicken and become whitish with prominent folds. Resulting from a change in bodily processes caused by cancer, it occurs because the palmar skin cells become hyper-stimulated. This results in buildups of thick, scaly, skin.
6. Bloody Phlegm
Seeing blood in your cough or phlegm, regardless of how little is never a good sign. Lung cancer patients will often see tiny spots of rust-colored blood when they cough or spit, along with other symptoms such as shortness of breath and chest pain.
Even if bloody cough isn’t as a result of lung cancer, it is most likely caused by some other serious underlying condition, therefore it is always best to get checked out by a doctor.
7. Mood Swings
Episodes of anger, irritability, exhaustion, and depression are often side effects of patients with lung cancer. These symptoms could be especially jarring in someone who is normally easygoing and happy-go-lucky.
Since depression, irritability and such mental issues are nonspecific, you or even a doctor might not immediately jump to lung cancer as the cause. But since mood swings are typically a symptom of late-stage lung cancer, there are most probably other accompanying symptoms, like others mentioned on this list. In some instances, mood swings may also occur in the earlier stages, in which case, it’s best to get checked out if some of the other symptoms also present themselves.
8. Recurring Infections
Oncologists say that frequent infections, commonly those relating to the lungs such as pneumonia or bronchitis, are common in lung cancer patients. This is because a tumor in the lungs affects the airways, and the body’s immune system becomes compromised as it constantly fights against the malignancy.
If you have been experiencing lung infections recurrently, it’s time to get an x-ray done. Bacterial infections could also damage the lungs and respiratory tract, but they will need to be treated separately with antibiotics.
9. Shoulder Pain
If you are experiencing sharp, shooting or tingling aches down the shoulder, inner arm, and hands, this could be very bad news for you. That’s because it often indicates that the tumor has grown so large that it is pressing against the top of the lungs, nerves, and armpit. Unfortunately, this is a symptom often associated with late-stage cancer and could mean that the cancer would be difficult to treat.
Additionally, you may also experience pain, tenderness or soreness in areas such as the rib cage or armpits. It would be accompanied by symptoms such as swollen lymph nodes, bodily pain, and facial swelling. If any of this sounds familiar to you, you should make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible!