Know your symptoms: lung cancer

Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in the United States with more than 160,000 people dying of the disease each year.

Unfortunately, this type of cancer has very few early stage symptoms, which means by the time it’s diagnosed, it may’ve spread.

Experts at House Call Doctor say if you have a persistent cough, it’s important you seek medical advice to ensure there’s not a more serious underlying problem.

What you need to know about lung cancer

There are two types of cancer affecting the lungs:

  • Primary lung cancer: where the type of cancer cells begin in the lungs. Primary lung cancer accounts for around 80 per cent of all cases.
  • Secondary lung cancer: This type of cancer starts somewhere else in the body and then reaches the lungs. Secondary lung cancer is less common among patients however, it is known to spread faster.

The main symptoms of lung cancer include:

  • A persistent cough that gets worse or doesn’t go away after three weeks
  • Coughing up blood
  • Persistent breathlessness
  • Unexplained weight loss or loss of appetite
  • Occurring tiredness or a lack of energy
  • Multiple chest infections.

There are a few uncommon symptoms of lung cancer which include:

  • Wheezing
  • Swelling on the face or neck
  • Difficulty or pain swallowing
  • A hoarse voice

The most common cause of lung cancer is smoking. Others include:

  • Exposure to asbestos
  • Second-hand smoke
  • HIV infection
  • Family history
  • Exposure to radiation
  • History of any lung diseases such as emphysema or lung fibrosis
  • Exposure to other substances such as nickel, soot, uranium, diesel fumes and chromium.

If the cancer is detected early and the cells only affect a small area of the lung, surgery is typically used to remove the affected area. If the cancer has spread, there are a wide range of treatments such as radiation therapy, chemotherapy and targeted therapy.