Lung cancer is cancer that primarily starts and affects the lungs. There is a number of various possible causes for this type of cancer but one of the main causes of lung cancer would be cigarette smoking. Lung cancer is the second most common cancer for both men and women. It is also the leading cause of cancer deaths compared to all the other cancers such as colon, prostate, and breast. All of these data clearly point to an illness that is both unforgiving and extremely deadly that is why knowing and detecting the early signs of lung cancer can greatly improve the chance of patients to win their fight against this dreaded disease.
Lung Cancer: What Is It and What Are the Risk Factors?
Lung cancer is a form of cancer that starts and primarily affects the lung cells. There are different types of lung cancers which have different characteristics and presentations. The most common type of lung cancer is called non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). This cancer accounts for around 85% of lung cancer cases and they usually form on the outer part of the lung. Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC), on the other hand, is a type of lung cancer that is more malignant and aggressive and makes up around 10- 15% of lung cancer cases. Mesothelioma is a third type of lung cancer that is associated with continued exposure to asbestos. There are a number of risk factors in developing lung cancer. Listed below are some of these risk factors:
1. Risk Factors based on the Patient’s Personal History
A number of risk factors point to genetics, age and past lung disease as being main considerations in the possible development of lung cancers in individuals. If an immediate family member developed lung cancer, a patient may have a higher risk factor of eventually developing lung cancer. Age can also play a crucial role in the possibility of developing lung cancer as people who are aged 70 may have a higher chance of getting lung cancer compared to some who is just 50 years old.
2. Risk Factors based on Lifestyle Choices
Exposure to secondhand smoke, smoking, and diet all play an important role in the development of lung cancer. Exposure to secondhand smoke and smoking are some of the top risk factors for developing lung cancer and while non-smokers can still get lung cancer, the risk of developing this illness greatly shoots up if an individual smokes or is exposed to secondhand smoke. Individuals must also ensure that they get a diverse mix of nutrients through vegetables and fruits to lessen the risk of developing lung cancer.
3. Risk Factors based on Environmental Considerations
Exposure to certain toxins such as Radon, Asbestos, Arsenic, Beryllium, Cadmium, Vinyl Chloride, Nickel Compounds, Chromium Compounds, coal products, mustard gas, Chloromethyl ethers, and diesel exhaust can all contribute to an increased risk factor for developing lung cancer.
What are the Early Signs of Lung Cancer?
The sad fact is that at the early stages of lung cancer, the illness tends to be asymptomatic. Symptoms of lung cancer will usually only manifest once cancer has advanced significantly. As such, it is best to be on the lookout for the following early signs of lung cancer for possible early screening and even treatment:
A Cough that lingers
A regular cough with colds will typically last for one (1) to two (2) weeks. Lung cancer will usually have cough symptoms that will linger for more than a few weeks. A quick doctor’s appointment can easily help patients determine their illness and identify if whether or not their lingering cough is caused by cancer of the lungs.
Change in Cough Pattern
A change in cough pattern can be a sign of lung cancer. Smokers should especially be attentive to cough patterns that suddenly change such as deeper or hoarser coughs, coughing up blood and large amounts of mucus as these changes in cough patterns may require a visit to the doctor.
Change in Breathing Patterns
The sudden onset of shortness of breath or the easily getting winded may be an early indication of the cancer of the lungs as lung tumors or the liquid in the said tumors may be obstructing your normal breathing pattern. It is highly recommended to have any changes in breathing patterns looked at by a medical professional.
Pain in and Around the Chest
Pain in and around the chest area, as well as the shoulders and the back, may also be an early symptom of lung cancer. This pain around the chest area will most usually be not even related to coughing.
Wheezing is closely related to changes in breathing patterns caused by obstructed airways. Lung cancer can cause tumors that block air passageways and the whistling sound of wheezing should not just be dismissed as asthma or allergies. A quick doctor’s appointment may help determine the cause of wheezing.
A hoarse voice is usually a symptom of coughs but if the hoarseness lingers for more than two (2) weeks and even beyond the actual persistence of the cough, it may be time to have it checked by a medical professional. This is because a hoarse voice may also be caused by tumors affecting the nerve that controls the voice box or larynx.
Sudden Weight Loss
A sudden drop in weight may be a symptom of lung or any other type of cancer. This occurs due to the cancer cells using up the energy from the patient’s consumed food items instead of having it distributed to the body’s healthy cells. If the patient has not actively tried to shed pounds but still lost around ten (10) pounds or more of body weight, it may be best to set an appointment with a doctor.
Lung cancer that has already spread to the bones may result in bone pain particularly in the upper and lower parts of the back(spine), neck and shoulders.