While tobacco smoke is the biggest carcinogen responsible for 85% of all lung cancers in the United States, even those exposed to second hand smoke can develop lung cancer. Statistics on the Lung Cancer Alliance’s web site show that 17.9% of people with lung cancer never even smoked. However, in addition to smoke, lung cancer may develop due to family history, occupational exposure to materials such as asbestos and poor diet.
Lung cancer may not produce any noticeable symptoms in the early stages. Approximately 40% of people diagnosed with lung cancer, found out only after the disease has advanced. In 1/3 of those diagnosed, the cancer has reached stage 3. Read on to learn about lung cancer symptoms, what to watch and listen out for, and how early screening may help people at high risk for the disease.
If you go to your doctor when you first notice symptoms, your cancer might be diagnosed at an earlier stage, when treatment is more likely to be effective.
Cough That Won’t Quit
Be on alert if a new cough lingers. While a cough associated with a cold or respiratory infection will go away in a week or two, a persistent cough that lingers longer can be a possible sign of lung cancer. Don’t dismiss a stubborn cough, no matter if it is dry or mucus-producing, as “just a cough.” See your doctor right away so they can listen to your lungs and possibly order an X-ray or other tests.
Change in a Cough
Pay attention to any changes in a chronic cough, particularly if you are a smoker. If you are coughing more often, your cough has a deeper or hoarse sound, or you are coughing up blood or more mucus than usual, it’s time to make a doctor’s appointment.
Shortness of breath or becoming easily winded are also possible symptoms of lung cancer, and can occur if lung cancer blocks or narrows an airway. It can also happen if fluid from a lung tumor builds up in the chest. Keep track of when you feel winded or short of breath. If this symptom occurs after climbing the stairs to your house, bringing in groceries, or performing another task you could previously do without finding it hard to breathe, don’t ignore it.
When airways become constricted, blocked, or inflamed, the lungs produce a wheezing or whistling sound when you breathe. Wheezing can be associated with multiple causes, some of which are benign and easily treatable. However, wheezing is also a lung cancer symptom, which is why it merits your doctor’s attention. If wheezing continues, don’t assume it’s asthma or allergies. Have your doctor confirm what’s causing it.
Raspy, Hoarse Voice
Hoarseness related to lung cancer can occur when the tumor affects the nerve that controls the larynx, or voice box. If you hear a significant change in your voice, or if someone else points out that your voice sounds deeper, hoarse, or raspier, get checked. Hoarseness can be caused by a simple cold, sore throat or from yelling, but this symptom becomes worrisome when it hangs on for more than two weeks.
Drop in Weight
An unexplained weight loss of 10 pounds or more may be associated with lung cancer or another type of cancer. When cancer is present, this weight drop may result from cancer cells using energy in the body. It could also result from shifts in the way the body uses food energy.
Pain In The Chest Area
Lung cancer may produce pain in the chest, shoulder, or back area. This aching feeling may not be associated with coughing. Tell your doctor if you notice any type of chest pain, whether it is sharp, dull, constant, or comes and goes. You should also note whether it is confined to a specific area or is occurring throughout your chest. When lung cancer causes chest pain, the discomfort may result from enlarged lymph nodes or metastasis to the chest wall, pleura (lining around the lungs), or the ribs.
Lung cancer that has spread to the bones may produce pain in the back or in other areas of the body. This pain may worsen at night while resting on the back. Additionally, lung cancer is sometimes associated with shoulder, arm, or neck pain, although this is less common. Be attentive to your aches and pains, and discuss them with your doctor.
Headaches may be a sign that lung cancer has spread to the brain. However, not all headaches in people with lung cancer are associated with brain metastases. Sometimes, a lung tumor may create pressure on the superior vena cava, which is the large vein that moves blood from the upper body to the heart. This pressure can also trigger headaches.
If Cancer Spreads
If lung cancer spreads to distant organs, it may cause:
- Bone pain (like pain in the back or hips)
- Nervous system changes (such as headache, weakness or numbness of an arm or leg, dizziness, balance problems, or seizures), from cancer spread to the brain or spinal cord
- Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice), from cancer spread to the liver
- Lumps near the surface of the body, due to cancer spreading to the skin or to lymph nodes (collections of immune system cells), such as those in the neck or above the collarbone
Most of the symptoms listed above are more likely to be caused by conditions other than lung cancer. Still, if you have any of these problems, it’s important to see your doctor right away so the cause can be found and treated, if needed.
Top 5 Foods to Fight Lung Cancer
It contains sulforaphane, which ups the production of enzymes that can eliminate carcinogens from cells. Broccoli consumed in any form is fine, but raw or juiced is believed to be optimal.
Green tea has long been touted for its powerful antioxidant properties, namely catechins, espoused for its ability to diminish cancer risks and contribute to longer lives. Studies have shown that heavy smokers who drank decaffeinated green tea had a 31% decrease in urinary levels of an oxidative stress marker that is higher in people with lung cancer as opposed to other cancers. Quite simply, tea’s properties have been found to stop a tumor from even forming in the first place.
According the University of Maryland Medical Center, foods high in iron and zinc (such as whole grains) is a large factor in reducing the severity of lung cancer symptoms.
This fish is an important source of Omega-3 fatty acids, a healthy fat that helps maintain a strong system. Omega-3 helps regulate circulatory and nervous system functions and is especially beneficial for those with a compromised system. The fatty acid is also responsible for delivering proper vitamins throughout the body, and contains a protein that people with cancer need. Low protein consumption can actually delay lung cancer healing
With the sad state of our waters, finding wild caught fish that promotes health can be challenging, so additional choices for healthy fats include chia and flax in whole seed, ground, or oil form.
This is my Go-To food for almost EVERYTHING, and with good reason. One of garlic’s incredibly potent ingredients, diallyl sulphide, which acts as an antibiotic in the body. It is often sought after by lung cancer patients because it helps reduce the production of cancer-causing chemicals. Garlic can also increase the white blood cells in the body, responsible for fighting toxins and helping prevent lung cancer.
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