Lung cancer—the deadliest cancer for American men and women—often develops in silence. With early detection, however, the chances for a positive outcome can be increased.
Perhaps the most worrisome fact about lung cancer is that an absence of symptoms doesn’t mean an absence of disease. In most cases, lung cancer’s presence remains unknown until it’s reached an advanced—read: difficult to treat, or even incurable—stage. However, if signs of potential lung cancer do appear, recognizing what they might mean and quickly following up with a physician could be lifesaving.
A variety of respiratory symptoms may be indicators of lung cancer, including:
- Acute chest discomfort during deep breathing or laughing
- Shortness of breath
Another sign is a persistent cough that worsens over time and causes chest pain, or a cough that includes bloody phlegm. Lung cancer may also lead to fatigue, loss of appetite and recurrent respiratory infections.
Scanning for Success
What can you do if you have no symptoms but are at risk for lung cancer based on your age and smoking history? If you’re between age 55 and 80 and have smoked the pack-year equivalent of one or more packs of cigarettes a day for 30 or more years—whether you still smoke or not—you may be a candidate for a low-dose computed tomography (CT) scan of the lungs. The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends yearly scans for at-risk individuals.
When it comes to successfully fighting lung cancer, timing is everything: The sooner lung cancer is found, the sooner treatment can begin, and the more likely it is to be effective.
If you experience symptoms that could be signs of lung cancer, make an appointment with your primary care physician immediately. Need a PCP? Visit eastsidemedgroup.com/physicians.