Lung cancer is one of the most aggressive forms of cancer, both for men and women. In fact, it is responsible for more deaths than other cancers such as breast, colon and prostate. Given that it compromises vital surrounding organs, it’s treatment can be quite difficult and unfortunately, roughly 80% of patients lose their battle with lung cancer.
The primary risk factor of this disease is the continuous exposure to tobacco smoke, whether you are a smoker yourself or are a second-hand smoker, avoiding cigarettes is key. Tobacco isn’t the only one responsible though, there are environmental toxins that can contribute to the development of cancer, for example inhaling asbestos in the case of some mine workers.
Lung cancer is produced when the cells lining the bronchi are altered or deteriorated, be it due to free radicals in the environment, genetic factors or simply from bad lifestyle habits. The most worrisome thing is that most diagnoses are made until the cancer is in its advanced stages, given that the symptoms initially go unnoticed or are confused with other mild diseases. Therefore, it’s important to recognize how lung cancer manifests itself in order to catch the signals on time.
Having a hard time breathing? Difficult breathing does not necessarily mean you have cancer, of course. However, when lung cancer has developed, it is almost always accompanied by forceful respiration. Difficulty breathing makes everyday activities very cumbersome or makes you feel like an extra effort has to be put forth to do anything physiclal. The purpose of oxygen is to provide fuel to cells to be able to work properly, without oxygen or with a low rate of oxygen intake, the body can become fatigued or tired very easily.
A Wheezing Chest
A whistling sound when breathing can be indicative of many types of pulmonary afflictions such as asthma, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder) or even as a result of the common cold. In any case, it should be an alarm that something is going on with the respiratory airways.
The sensation of mental and physical fatigue is common in patients with lung cancer. This is due to the narrowing of airways due to the presence of tumors or because of the accumulation of liquid which makes the movement and transportation of oxygen difficult. As mentioned above, if we aren’t getting proper oxygenation levels into our system, fatigue is inevitable.
Coughing is an immunological reaction to the presence of microbes such as bacteria and viruses that spread throughout the respiratory system. In general, a cough from the majority of infections lasts only for a few weeks at the most (more severe infections can persist for longer). Heavy smokers obviously present constant cough with more frequency given that the toxic chemicals in cigarettes linger in your lungs for a very long time. With all this said, a chronic and seemingly permanent cough should set off an alarm that cancerous cells have been developing in your lungs. You should definitely consult your healthcare professional if the cough is accompanied by blood or phlegm mixed with blood.
The presence of lung cancer brings with it painful sensations in the chest that tend to increase when exercising, coughing or even laughing. In some cases, chest pains can irradiate towards the shoulders and lumbar region in the back. Oftentimes, painful in these areas manifest for no apparent reason. When the intensity is such that it becomes uncontrollable, there is a high chance that cancerous processes have already extended to nearby osseous structures.
Pain in the Superior Extremities
One of the first signs for concern is when pain is present in the hands and fingers for no apparent injury or trauma. Lung cancer is notorious for causing pain in these parts and also one of the most ignored because people do not relate pain in the hands and fingers to lung cancer. Nevertheless, sometimes it is an indication of tumors present in the respiratory tract because the lack of oxygenation produces poor circulation to the limbs, especially the hands. If you notice whitish colored palms with thickened skin, you should see your physician for evaluation.
Patients with lung cancer tend to suffer from a weakened immune system due to the fact that some medications that fight cancer can actually weaken it and cause high fever. In other cases, higher temperatures are due to an actual infection that came about during a lessened ability of the immune system to stave off diseases.
Remember that not all the above symptoms actually indicate the existence of cancer. Self-diagnosing based solely on the above is foolhardy. Perhaps the biggest indicator is the presence of bloody phlegm or coughing up blood. What the above should alert you to is to seek professional help for a proper diagnosis. In any case, the previous symptoms should be considered red flags and should be taken seriously especially if you experience several and not just one of the above symptoms.