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Lung Cancer Awareness: What are the Signs and Symptoms of Lung Cancer?

Written By: Kent Hospital on November 1, 2021

According to The American Cancer Society's estimate, there will be about 235,760 new lung cancer cases in 2021. Although the trend of new infections has been gradually decreasing, it is nonetheless alarming since lung cancer still leads to the most cancer deaths among both men and women, making up to 25% of all cancer deaths.

What Causes Lung Cancer?

Smoking is the main cause of both small cell and non-small cell lung cancer. When inhaled- actively or passively, smoke and chemicals that tobacco contains can lead to cellular changes in the lungs that may lead to cancer.

Other factors that may put you at risk of suffering from lung cancer include:

  • Exposure to radiation
  • Exposure to arsenic and other chemicals
  • Exposure to asbestos, nickel, chromium, soot, or tar
  • Living in an area with significant air pollution
  • Genetic inheritance
  • Age

Survival of lung cancer varies depending on the stage of cancer when it is diagnosed. It is therefore of great importance to know the signs and symptoms of the disease for early detection and effective treatment.

Signs and Symptoms of Lung Cancer

In the early stages, the signs and symptoms of lung cancer can be mistaken for other medical conditions. If you have the following symptoms, it can be wise to have them checked by your Primary Care Physician, as they could be signals of the early stages of lung cancer.

  • A cough that surpasses two or three weeks
  • Coughing up blood
  • Long-standing coughs
  • Repeated chest infections that do not get better
  • Chest or shoulder pains
  • An ache when breathing or coughing
  • Persistent breathlessness (caused by a buildup of fluid between the chest wall and the lungs)
  • A hoarse voice

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Advanced Lung Cancer?

Although lung cancer starts in the lungs, it may spread (metastasize) beyond the lungs to other body parts like the lymph nodes within the chest, abdomen, the liver, bones, adrenal glands, brain, etc. To this extent, the condition might be inoperable, but doctors may prescribe treatments that could help halt any further spread.

Below are symptoms that cancer has metastasized to other body parts.

  • Lumps, particularly in the neck or armpits, could be an alert that lung cancer has spread to your lymph nodes.
  • Lung cancer can also spread to the liver, causing symptoms like discomfort or pain in the right side of the stomach, poor appetite, a swollen abdomen, jaundice, and itchy skin.
  • Pain, raised calcium levels in the blood, and weak bones mean the bones have been affected.
  • Cancer that has spread to the brain may cause drowsiness and confusion, severe headaches, and weak arms or legs.
  • Some people may also have swollen fingers and nails, and pain and swelling in their joints, a condition known as hypertrophic pulmonary osteoarthropathy (HPOA).

How Do I Test for Lung Cancer?

Diagnosis of lung cancer is made by looking at a sample of lung cells in the lab or screening. Your doctor will take you through.

Your Medical History and Physical Exam

This is meant to disclose your symptoms and possible risk factors. The physical exam also helps look for signs of lung cancer or other health complications.

Imaging Tests to Look for Lung Cancer

Imaging tests are done by using X-rays, magnetic fields, sound waves, or radioactive substances to create pictures of the inside of your body. It can be done before and after diagnosing lung cancer.

Imaging tests may include:

  • Chest x-ray
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Positron emission tomography, and
  • Bone scan

If the tests suggest that one has lung cancer, the actual diagnosis is made by looking at lung cells in the lab.

Lung Cancer Awareness Month

Every year, the month of November is dedicated to educating the public about potential causes and risk factors of lung cancer, and to raising awareness and recognition of the typical symptoms of lung cancer. The month is also intended to encourage people to seek medical advice early for a chance of effective treatment.

Furthermore, LCAM is also intended to highlight advances in the treatment of the disease, and champion global access to care and support lung cancer patients.

Usually, symptoms of lung cancer don't appear until the disease is at its advanced stages. It is, therefore, appropriate to get through screening for a chance of early detection and effective treatment.

At Care New England, a network of hospitals across Rhode Island, our sole purpose is to ensure optimal health care for the community. Our compassionate and skilled staff are experienced in treating lung cancer. Contact us to schedule an appointment today. 


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