Lung cancer: Signs and symptoms to look out for
Lung cancer is one of the most common and serious types of cancer – around 47,000 people are diagnosed with the condition every year in the UK. Partly what makes lung cancer so serious is that it is not usually picked up until it has advanced. This can undermine the effectiveness of treatments to respond.
Lumps or swollen areas, particularly in your armpits or neck, could signal lung cancer has spread to your lymph nodes, according to Cancer Research UK.
Lymph nodes are part of a system of tubes and glands in the body that filters body fluid and fights infection.
As Cancer Research UK explains, lumps or swollen areas can signal the lung cancer has enlarged your lymph nodes.
But, as the charity points out, lymph nodes also get bigger if you have an infection.
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“So you can’t be sure of the cause of a lump until your doctor has examined you and done some tests,” it advises.
General symptoms of lung cancer
The main symptoms of lung cancer include:
- A cough that doesn’t go away after two or three weeks
- A long-standing cough that gets worse
- Chest infections that keep coming back
- Coughing up blood
- An ache or pain when breathing or coughing
- Persistent breathlessness
- Persistent tiredness or lack of energy
- Loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss.
Less common symptoms of lung cancer include:
- Changes in the appearance of your fingers, such as becoming more curved or their ends becoming larger (this is known as finger clubbing)
- Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia) or pain when swallowing
- A hoarse voice
- Swelling of your face or neck
- Persistent chest or shoulder pain.
How is lung cancer treated?
Treatment depends on the type of mutation the cancer has, how far it’s spread and how good your general health is.
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According to the NHS, if the condition is diagnosed early and the cancerous cells are confined to a small area, surgery to remove the affected area of lung may be recommended.
“If surgery is unsuitable due to your general health, radiotherapy to destroy the cancerous cells may be recommended instead,” explains the health body.
It adds: “If the cancer has spread too far for surgery or radiotherapy to be effective, chemotherapy is usually used.”
Am I at risk?
There are some factors that can increase your risk of developing lung cancer.
Having any of one of the risk factors doesn’t mean that you will definitely get lung cancer.
According to Cancer Research UK, smoking tobacco is the biggest cause of lung cancer in the UK.
As the charity warns, even light or occasional smoking increases the risk of lung cancer. But your risk increases more the longer you smoke and the more you smoke.
Stopping smoking is therefore the best thing you can do for your health – the sooner you stop, the better.
Exposure to certain chemicals and substances may also increase your risk of developing lung cancer.
Research suggests that being exposed to diesel fumes over many years increases your risk of developing lung cancer.
One study has shown your risk of developing lung cancer increases by around 33 percent if you live in an area with high levels of nitrogen oxide gases (mostly produced by cars and other vehicles).
Other risk factors include:
- Family history of lung cancer
- Previous lung disease.
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