Know the signs and symptoms of lung cancer
Learn about the crucial signs and symptoms of lung cancer. Discover how early detection can make a life-saving difference.
According to the American Lung Association, lung cancer is the leading cause of death due to cancer in America; about 1 in 4 of four cancer deaths are from lung cancer — approximately 238,340 new lung cancer cases and an estimated 127,070 deaths yearly. Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in men and women in the United States (not counting skin cancer).
But the good news is that the earlier lung cancer is identified and treated, the better the odds of survival.
The challenge is finding it in its early stage — which can be difficult because most lung cancers don't cause noticeable symptoms until the disease has spread to other parts of the body. Annual lung cancer screenings using low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) are recommended for people aged 50 to 80 with a 20-pack-year smoking history who currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years.
Awareness of risk factors that might predispose you to lung cancer and knowing some common signs and symptoms can increase the odds of it being discovered at an earlier, potentially more treatable stage.
Lung cancer risk factors
The American Cancer Society identifies the following as lung cancer risk factors:
- Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer deaths, responsible for about 80 percent of lung cancers — including secondhand smoke in nonsmokers.
- Radon, a colorless, odorless radioactive gas that occurs naturally in soil, is another cause of lung cancer. Radon contributes to an estimated 20,000 lung cancer deaths annually.
- Inhalation of hazardous chemicals like asbestos, uranium, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, nickel, and some petroleum products is dangerous.
- Another risk factor is particle pollution — inhaling a mix of very tiny solid and liquid particles such as exhaust smoke.
It's important to remember that lung cancer can develop even without any known risk factors. That's why it's crucial to recognize the symptoms. For those at higher risk of lung cancer, the American Cancer Society recommends yearly low-dose CT (LDCT) screenings based on their guidelines.
Lung cancer signs and symptoms:
- A cough that doesn't go away and gets worse over time
- Constant chest pain
- Shortness of breath or wheezing
- Frequent lung infections such as bronchitis, pneumonia, or coughing up blood
If you are experiencing any symptoms of lung cancer, it is crucial that you schedule a screening as soon as possible. Early screening can help detect lung cancer before the onset of symptoms and when conditions are most treatable, potentially saving your life.