Lung Cancer Symptoms and Treatment Facts to Know

· December 30, 2017
In the early stages, lung cancer typically has no symptoms. That’s why many more tumors are detected in the more advanced stages.

Your lungs are an essential part of your respiratory system. The air that enters through your nose and mouth travels through the trachea until it reaches both of your bronchi, and finally arrives to your lungs. Lung cancer symptoms can prove deadly. And, that’s why it’s important to catch them early.

  • When you breathe in, your lungs fill with air. This is how you acquire oxygen.
  • When that air is released, your body releases carbon dioxide.

But how do lung cancer symptoms occur? Everything starts with the cells that are found in the various tissues and organs of your body – in this case, the lungs.

These cells divide to form new cells. When they’re damaged or grow old, they are replaced by other cells.

Sometimes, however, the process can get out of control and produce an excess of new cells for renewal. This is how tumors form.

Non-small cell lung cancer is the most common type of cancer that many lung cancer symptoms can lead to.

Types of cancer

skeletal x-ray of lung cancer symptoms
Non-small cells can categorize into different classes, based on how they appear under the microscope:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma: This type of cancer originates in the squamous cells, which are thin, flat cells that are similar to fish scales. Medically, this is known as squamous cell carcinoma.
  • Large cell carcinoma: This type originates from several different types of large cells.
  • Adenocarcinoma: This type of cancer arises in the cells that line the alveoli and create substances like mucus.
  • Uncommon types: Pleomorphic carcinoid tumors, carcinoma of the salivary gland, and unclassified carcinomas.

See also: 8 common cancer symptoms that most people ignore

Risk factors

  • People who smoke are 90% more likely to get lung cancer.
  • And, don’t forget that inhaling second-hand smoke is just as bad as if you were smoking.
  • Additionally, the inhalation of substances like arsenic, silicon, or chromium is another risk factor.

Diagnosis

doctor checking a man's lungs with a stethoscope for lung cancer symptoms
However, it’s not possible to define a complete clinical profile for diagnosing lung cancer symptoms.

But, the following lung cancer symptoms stand out

  • Constant or worsening cough
  • Chest pain
  • Trouble breathing
  • Cough associated with blood or phlegm that’s rust-colored
  • Constant feeling of fatigue
  • Hoarseness
  • Weight loss for no apparent reason
  • Infections like recurring bronchitis and pneumonia
  • A whistle in the chest

Additionally, when lung cancer spreads to other parts of the body, you may experience the following:

  • Yellowing of the skin, if the cancer spreads to your liver
  • Bone pain
  • Headaches
  • Weakness in the arms and legs
  • Dizziness
  • Seizures
  • Swollen lymph nodes due to a build-up of cells in your immune system

Also, if these symptoms continue for more than three weeks it’s essential that you visit your doctor for a chest x-ray.

Based on your x-ray results, the doctor may request your detailed medical history and perform a physical examination along with other lab tests.

Read also: 8 key symptoms of cervical cancer

Detection

This consists of searching for the disease before a patient has any symptoms.

  • Physical exam: A doctor may check your overall health to see if there are any lumps or anything else out of the ordinary. Your habits and previous disease history or treatments will be taken into account.
  • Laboratory tests: Samples of blood, urine, tissue, and other materials that may show signs of cancer are taken.
  • Imaging: This procedure allows the doctor to obtain images of your body’s internal areas.
  • Genetic testing: These tests search for genetic mutations that could be related to different types of cancer.

Note: Also, it’s important that your doctor authorizes all procedures for detecting cancer. Because, they may not all be useful and could even pose certain risks.

Treatment

hands and an illustration of lungs for lung cancer symptoms
What’s more, there are different treatments for lung cancer, depending on the severity and extent of the damage. The following are the most common:

  • Surgery: An operation that removes the cancerous tissue.
  • Chemotherapy: The use of medications in pill form or intravenously that reduce or eliminate the cancer.
  • Radiotherapy: Cancer cells are targeted with high intensity radiation.
  • Targeted therapy: The use of medications to block the spread of cancer cells.

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Prevention

  • Avoid smoking and breathing second-hand smoke
  • Increase your consumption of fruits and vegetables
  • Exercise regularly
  • Don’t burn wood in your home, as it can release harmful substances
  • Avoid very industrialized areas
  • Reduce alcohol consumption
  • Have an annual medical checkup to detect any abnormalities

And, don’t forget: it’s better to be safe than sorry. Never ignore lung cancer symptoms; it’s better to see a doctor right away.