Lung cancer: Signs and symptoms to look out for
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Lung cancer develops when cells in the lungs grow out of control and this proliferation typically spreads to other regions of the body. Like all cancers, acting on the warning signs improves survival outcomes. Unfortunately, most lung cancers don’t cause symptoms until the disease has advanced.
According to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA), this is in part because the lungs have few nerve endings.
“When lung cancer does cause signs in its early stages, they may vary from person to person,” explains the CTCA.
However, there are some common early warning signs to be aware of.
As the CTCA explains, bronchitis that won’t go away is an early warning sign.
Bronchitis is an infection of the main airways of the lungs (bronchi), causing them to become irritated and inflamed.
This typically causes your lungs to produce more mucus than usual.
Other early warning signs of lung cancer include:
- A cough that doesn’t go away after two or three weeks
- A long-standing cough that gets worse
- 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.
When to see your GP
According to the NHS, you should see a GP if you have symptoms of lung cancer, such as breathlessness or a persistent cough.
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“The GP will ask about your general health and your symptoms,” explains the health body.
“They may examine you and ask you to breathe into a device called a spirometer, which measures how much air you breathe in and out.”
Am I at risk?
There are some factors that can increase your risk of developing lung cancer.
Having any of these risk factors doesn’t mean that you will definitely get cancer.
Most cases of lung cancer are caused by smoking, although people who have never smoked can also develop the condition.
According to Cancer Research UK, around seven out of 10 lung cancers are caused by smoking.
This includes breathing in other people’s cigarette smoke.
Exposure to certain substances can also increase your risk of developing lung cancer.
Research also 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).
Naturally, people who are regularly exposed to exhaust fumes through their jobs have a higher risk of developing lung cancer.
Other substances include:
- Coal and coke fumes
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