Lung cancer: Dr Amir describes the symptoms in February
Lung cancer is the most deadly form of cancer in the UK, accounting for almost 35,000 deaths every year.
However, it is only the third most prevalent, behind breast and prostate cancer.
It occurs when there is an uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in either the windpipe, main airway or lung tissue.
This is known as primary lung cancer but cancer can also spread from other parts of the body to the lungs, which is known as secondary lung cancer.
To have the best chance of undergoing successful treatment for lung cancer it is important to be aware of the symptoms.
According to Cancer Research UK, there are two warning signs of the disease that can appear when breathing in.
These are pain in the chest or shoulder. You might also experience pain in these areas when coughing due to lung cancer, the charity says.
And the NHS states that “persistent” chest or shoulder pain are “less common” signs of the disease.
Although these could be caused by less serious conditions, it is still vital to get it checked.
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Cancer Research UK explains: “If you think you have any of these symptoms go and see your doctor.
“If lung cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, treatment is more likely to be successful.”
The charity lists the most common symptoms of lung cancer as:
- Having a new cough or a cough most of the time
- Getting out of breath doing the things you used to do without a problem
- Coughing up phlegm (sputum) with blood in it
- Having an ache or pain in the chest or shoulder
- Chest infections that keep coming back or a chest infection that doesn’t get better
- Losing your appetite
- Feeling tired all the time (fatigue)
- Losing weight.
In some cases, patients might even notice a change in the appearance of their hands.
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Finger clubbing is one lesser-known sign of lung cancer.
“Some people have swollen fingers and nails (finger clubbing). This is more common in non-small cell lung cancer,” Cancer Research UK says.
“They may also have pain and swelling in their joints. This condition is called hypertrophic pulmonary osteoarthropathy (HPOA).”
And a rare form of lung cancer, known as a Pancoast tumour that grows at the top of the lung, can cause very “specific” symptoms.
These include severe shoulder pain with pain that travels down the arm or up the head and neck.
It could also result in:
- Drooping or weakness of one eyelid
- A small pupil in the same eye
- Loss of sweating on one side of the face.
The main cause of lung cancer is smoking cigarettes, but this is not always the case.
It can also be caused by exposure to certain chemicals, substances, radon gas and second hand smoke. People with a family history of the disease are also more at risk.
If you experience any symptoms of lung cancer you should speak to your GP.
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