Saturday 24 December 2016

Lung cancer symptoms that you need to know – even if you’re not a smoker!

Lung cancer is the second most diagnosed form of cancer in both men and women. About fourteen percent of all new cancers are lung cancers. In the United States in 2016 alone, there has been about 224,390 new cases of lung cancer and about 158,080 deaths due to lung cancer. Each year more people die from lung cancer than colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined, making lung cancer the leading cause of cancer death for both men and women. With the odds of developing lung cancer for men at about 1 in 14 and for women 1 in 17, it’s important to know the signs because catching it early makes all the difference in the long-term success of treatment (1).

There are two main kinds of lung cancer, small cell lung cancer, and non-small cell lung cancer, and a diagnosis for each is made by looking at the cells under a microscope. Small cell lung cancer is more aggressive and forms in the tissues of the lung and can spread to other parts of the body. Under a microscope, the cancer cells look small and oval-shaped. There are three kinds of non-small cell lung cancer, and they are squamous cell carcinoma, large cell carcinoma, and adenocarcinoma, they are more common than small cell lung cancer (2).

The signs and symptoms

But what are the signs that you should be looking out for if you’re on the watch for lung cancer? There are a number of signs and symptoms that will demonstrate with the onset of lung cancer. These are the early signs of lung cancer.
  • A cough that worsens or doesn’t go away
  • chest pain that is constant and made worse by deep breathing or coughing
  • blood stained sputum (mucus and other matter coughed up from the lungs)
  • shortness of breath
  • wheezing
  • frequent chest infections (bronchitis or pneumonia)
  • fatigue
  • hoarseness
  • loss of appetite
  • weight loss
  • collapsed lung
  • severe shoulder pain (caused by a superior sulcus tumor pressing on a nerve)
  • problems in one eye (dropping or weakness of the eyelid, and a smaller pupil)
  • reduced or absent perspiration on the same side of the face as the affected eye (3)
Here are the late signs and symptoms of lung cancer.
  • The buildup of fluid around the lungs
  • bone pain
  • jaundice
  • difficulty swallowing
  • superior vena cava syndrome
  • neurological changes (weakness, headache, numbness in a limb, dizziness, seizure)
  • enlarge lymph nodes in the neck or above the collarbone (3)



The incidence of lung cancer is strongly related to smoking with about 90 percent of lung cancer cases arising as a result of tobacco. Even people who reside with a smoker are twenty-four percent more at risk of developing lung cancer (4).


Exposure to asbestos is another cause of lung cancer. The fibers are silicate fibers that can persist for a lifetime in lung tissue following exposure to asbestos. As asbestos was used widely as insulation for a long time, it is very probable you’ve been exposed to some without your knowledge. Even though asbestos is banned in the United States, it is still linked to lung cancer and mesothelioma. People exposed to asbestos have a fivefold greater risk of developing lung cancer. The risk multiples if the person is also a smoker (4).

Radon gas

Radon gas is a natural, chemically inert gas that is a product of uranium. It is known to cause lung cancer with an estimated twelve percent of lung cancer deaths attributable to radon gas. The environmental protection agency estimates that one out of every fifteen homes in the U.S. contain dangerous levels of radon gas (4).

Air pollution

Air pollution from cars and industrial by-products are also a source of lung cancer. Up to one percent of cancer deaths are attributable to breathing polluted air. Experts believe that prolonged exposure to polluted air can carry a similar risk as that of passive smoking (4).

(1) Key statistics for lung cancer Accessed: December 21, 2016.
(2) PubMed Health. Lung Cancer Accessed: December 21, 2016.
(3) Canadian cancer society. Signs and symptoms of lung cancer Accessed: December 21, 2016.
(4) Web MD. Causes of lung cancer Accessed: December 21, 2016.

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