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Home > Symptom > Lung Cancer Symptoms - Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment & Prevention

Lung Cancer Symptoms - Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment & Prevention

Lung Cancer Symptoms - Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment & Prevention

Overview Of Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the lungs. Your lungs are two pliable organs located in your chest that allow you to breathe in oxygen and exhaust carbon dioxide.

The largest cause of cancer-related fatalities worldwide is lung cancer.

Even those who have never smoked can develop lung cancer, but smokers are more at risk than nonsmokers. Your risk of lung cancer increases with the number and frequency of cigarettes you've smoked. Quitting smoking can significantly reduce your risk of developing lung cancer, even after years of smoking.

What is Lung Cancer?

Lung cancer, like other cancers, arises when the regular processes of cell division and growth are hampered, resulting in abnormal, uncontrollable growth. The cells develop into a tumor-like mass. The term "malignant," or "cancerous," refers to any abnormal growth in the body that immediately invades neighbouring tissues and organs, spreads to other areas of the body, or has the potential to regrow after being removed.

Who gets Lung Cancer?

Lung cancer can develop over a period of years. Smoking is the most common risk factor for lung cancer. Many people who inhale cigarette smoke or some of its components will experience long-lasting pathological alterations in their lungs. The lung may grow a malignant tumour as a result of these modifications.

  • People who have never smoked are diagnosed with 25% of all lung cancer cases worldwide. What caused these instances is unknown.
  • Lung cancer affects two out of three adults over the age of 65.
  • The average age of diagnosis is 70 years old.

What are the Stages of Lung Cancer?

The process of staging enables the doctor to completely comprehend the scope of the patient's cancer in order to make treatment options and forecast expected results. Cancer staging is described by doctors using precise terminology, although the following is a simple approach to do so:

  • Localized: The lung is the only site of the malignancy.
  • Region: Cancer has spread to the chest's lymph nodes (or glands).
  • Distant: Cancer has metastasized, or spread, to different bodily parts.

What are the Types of Lung Cancer?

The lining of the bronchi is where most lung malignancies begin (air passageways branching off the trachea, or breathing tube). In addition, particularly usually in the outer regions of the lungs, glands beneath the lining of the bronchi can develop lung cancer. These lung cancers are either small cell or non-small cell lung cancers, both of which have distinct growth and metastasis patterns:

  • Non-small cell lung cancer

Compared to small cell lung cancer, non-small cell lung cancer tends to grow and spread more slowly. Non-small cell lung cancer can be classified into three primary subtypes according to the cells from which it arises:

  1. Adenocarcinoma frequently begins to grow close to the edge of the lung and might vary in size and rate of growth. Both smokers and individuals who have never smoked are most likely to get this type of lung cancer.
  2. Squamous cell carcinoma most frequently begins in one of the bigger breathing tubes close to the middle of the chest. These lung tumours might be extremely little or rather substantial in size.
  3. Large cell carcinoma frequently begins close to the edge of the lung, develops quickly, and is typically well advanced when discovered.
  • Small cell lung cancer

About 15% of all lung cancers are small cell lung tumours, which are less prevalent than non-small cell lung cancer. By the time a patient receives a diagnosis, their lung cancer will probably be advanced and have spread to other body parts.

  • Rare cancers of the chest

More than a dozen different rare tumour types, some of which may or may not originate from the lung, can form in the chest. Carcinoid tumours, which are frequently found in significant airways, and malignant mesothelioma, which arises from the lung's pleura, are two less frequent varieties.

  • Mesothelioma

The protective membrane that protects the majority of the body's internal organs, the mesothelium, is a target of the cancer mesothelioma. Only 3,000 people are affected by this rare cancer each year, and it typically develops in the pleura, the mesothelium that surrounds the lungs, though it can also develop in the pericardium, the membrane that covers the heart. Typically, mesothelioma develops decades after asbestos exposure.

Early Signs and Symptoms of Lung Cancer

Early signs and symptoms of lung cancer include:

  1. a cough that won’t quit or changes
  2. breathing changes or wheezing
  3. body pain
  4. raspy, hoarse voice
  5. unexplained weight loss
  • A cough that won’t quit or changes

Usually, a cough brought on by a cold or respiratory infection goes away within a week or so, but a persistent, chronic cough could be an indication of lung cancer.

In particular, if you smoke, pay alert to any changes in a persistent cough.

Immediately schedule a visit with a doctor if you have a cough:

  1. lingers
  2. starts happening more often
  3. has gotten deeper
  4. sounds hoarse
  5. produces blood
  6. produces a large amount of mucus

A doctor will listen to your lungs and may order an X-ray or other tests.

  • Breathing changes or wheezing

Other potential signs of lung cancer include having trouble breathing or getting quickly tired. If a lung tumour causes fluid to accumulate in the chest, obstruct or narrow an airway, or both, these conditions can affect breathing.

Record the instances when you experience weariness or shortness of breath. If you have problems breathing after climbing stairs or doing something you once found easy, don't ignore it.

When you breathe, your lungs may make a wheezing or whistling sound if your airways are restricted, clogged, or irritated. This could be caused by a variety of factors, some of which are benign and easily treatable.

Wheezing is something you should bring up to your doctor since it might possibly be an indication of lung cancer. It's preferable to refrain from presuming that wheezing is brought on by allergies or asthma. Consult your doctor to determine the cause.

  • Body pain

Chest, shoulder, or back pain are possible side effects of lung cancer. This can occur when you cough or all day long.

If you experience any kind of chest pain, regardless of whether it's:

  • sharp
  • dull
  • constant
  • intermittent

Additionally, notice whether it affects your entire chest or just a small portion of it.

Swollen lymph nodes or metastases to the chest wall, pleura (the membrane lining the lungs), or ribs can cause chest pain from lung cancer.

If your lung cancer has spread to your bones, it may hurt in your back or other areas of your body. Bone discomfort typically worsens at night and during moving.

Headaches can occasionally be a sign that lung cancer has "metastasized" to the brain. However, not all headaches are caused by brain metastases.

  • Raspy, hoarse voice

If your voice changes noticeably or if someone else says it sounds raspier, hoarser, or deeper, it's a good idea to call your doctor.

A normal cold can cause hoarseness, but if it persists, it might indicate a more serious condition.

When a tumour interferes with the nerve that regulates the larynx, or voice box, hoarseness associated with lung cancer may develop.

  • Unexplained weight loss

Lung cancer is only one of the many malignancies that might result in an unexplained weight loss of at least 10 pounds.

When malignancy is present, this weight loss could be the result of cancer cells eating energy. Additionally, it can take place if your body starts utilising meals differently.

If you haven't been trying to lose weight, it's crucial to pay attention to any changes in your weight. It can indicate a change in your health.

  • Less common signs and symptoms

Less common signs and symptoms of lung cancer include:

  1. finger clubbing
  2. difficulty swallowing
  3. swelling of the face or neck
  4. blood clots

 

Small Cell Lung Cancer Symptoms

Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and non-small cell lung cancer are the two main types of lung cancer (NSCLC). Though less frequent than NSCLC, SCLC is more aggressive.

Early signs of SCLC are typically absent, but if it spreads to your lung or to other body areas, you may suffer the following symptoms:

  • bloody mucus
  • shortness of breath or wheezing
  • chest pain
  • persistent cough
  • loss of appetite
  • facial swelling

If you experience any of these symptoms, you need to call your doctor straight soon.

Advanced Lung Cancer Symptoms

When lung cancer is in its advanced stages, the disease frequently spreads to the bones or brain in addition to the lungs.

The following are examples of advanced lung cancer symptoms:

  • fatigue
  • pain
  • breathing difficulties
  • persistent coughing
  • loss of appetite

You can experience symptoms like fractures if lung cancer has gone to your bones or vision problems if it has spread to your brain if it has spread to other organs.

End-stage Symptoms for Lung Cancer

Lung cancer does not usually present with the same end-stage symptoms. All or more of the symptoms listed below may be present in a patient in the terminal stages. Common signs of the final stage lung cancer include:

  • pain
  • confusion
  • weakness
  • restlessness
  • loss of appetite
  • cough
  • trouble concentrating or focusing
  • fast or uneven breathing
  • shortness of breath
  • a rattle in the chest in between breaths
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • loss of consciousness

Is Symptoms of Lung Cancer Different for Men or Women?

Men and women both have the same lung cancer symptoms.

Squamous cell lung cancer is more common in men, but. Squamous cell lung cancer primarily affects smokers, and men statistically have a higher smoking prevalence than women, which explains why it affects more men than women.

Tumors from squamous cell lung cancer develop right in the airways. The outer borders of the lungs are where lung adenocarcinoma cancers, which are more frequently detected in women, first appear.

This distinction frequently indicates that squamous cell lung cancer produces significant symptoms earlier in the course of the disease than lung adenocarcinoma. As a result, although both men and women will experience lung cancer symptoms, it's not unusual for men to do so earlier.

Diagnosis of Lung Cancer

Typically, a patient's lung cancer is suspected when a chest imaging test (such as a chest X-ray or CT scan) yields abnormal results or when the condition has advanced to the point that symptoms including coughing, shortness of breath, chest pain, exhaustion, and/or weight loss are present.

A biopsy, or the removal of cells or tissues from the suspicious lump, is necessary for diagnosis. A needle put through the skin into the lung tumour or a bronchoscope fed through the breathing passages can both be used to take biopsies. If none of these approaches work, surgery may be required to provide a conclusive diagnosis. The biopsy is crucial in detecting the type of lung cancer and whether or not it is cancer.

  • Clinical trials

Clinical trial participation may be an option for treatment for some patients. Clinical trials are conducted to determine the safety and efficacy of novel cancer treatments as well as if they are superior to current therapies. Early clinical trials served as the foundation for many of the mainstream cancer treatments used today. The usual treatment or being among the first to receive a potential new treatment are two options available to patients who participate in clinical trials.

Clinical trial participants also advance the way cancer will be treated in the future. Clinical trials frequently provide crucial answers and advance medical knowledge, even when they do not result in novel treatments that are very effective.

  • Lung cancer screening

The term "lung cancer screening" refers to evaluating a healthy person who is at high risk of getting lung cancer but has no symptoms in order to detect the disease while it is more treatable. When carried out in a high-quality environment, low-dose chest CT-based screening has been shown to decrease the proportion of patients who pass away from lung cancer with tolerable risks. For those who are at a high risk of developing lung cancer (aged 55 to 77, 30+ pack-years of smoking, smoked within the last 15 years).

Treatment of Lung Cancer

The patient's health status, the type of tumour, and the extent of its dissemination are all taken into consideration while creating the best possible treatment plan for that person's cancer.

It is incredibly difficult to treat lung cancer. The most important criteria in influencing the survival rate are the cell type and stage at the time of diagnosis. Those who are curable could only have a limited diagnosis. Unfortunately, the majority of patients receive a diagnosis after the cancer has spread outside of the chest (distant or advanced) or has affected the chest nodes (regional). Additionally, because they are such delicate organs, the lungs may not respond well to some treatments. Lung cancer has one of the lowest survival rates of all cancers, which is explained by this combination. Lung cancer patients often have a two-year survival rate of 25%. 15% of people survive after five years.

It's crucial to go over the intended outcomes of lung cancer treatment with your doctor. The cancer may be controlled with some therapy. Others are used to lessen symptoms or enhance quality of life. Both of these therapeutic options are available.

  • Chemotherapy and targeted therapies

Chemotherapy is the application of medications intended to destroy rapidly proliferating cells, such as cancer cells. Chemotherapy can be administered intravenously, or straight into a vein, or it can be administered by a catheter, a tiny tube inserted into a big vein and left there until it is no longer required. Some chemotherapy medications are swallowed as pills.

A more recent class of medications called targeted medicines is made to target particular flaws in cancer cells or their surrounding supporting tissues, such blood vessels. These medications can also be injected or used orally. They work best in malignancies with specific gene or cell receptor alterations.

Chemotherapy may be combined with surgery in the early stages of non-small cell cancer to increase survival rates. Chemotherapy and targeted therapies can be applied to treat symptoms and lengthen life in more advanced non-small cell cancer stages as well as in all stages of small cell cancer.

Both healthy cells and malignant cells are impacted by chemotherapy. While properly treating the malignancy, your doctors will work to minimise any adverse effects. The specific medicine and dosage have a significant impact on side effects. They can be unique to each person and might only last a short while. Hair loss, mouth sores, exhaustion, and nausea and vomiting are typical side effects of chemotherapy. Your healthcare professionals can offer advice on how to minimise any negative effects and help alleviate any symptoms that could develop before, during, or following treatments.

  • Radiation therapy

High energy X-rays used in radiation therapy are used to eliminate cancer cells. It may be applied as a stand-alone therapy or in conjunction with chemotherapy (with or without surgery). It frequently can play a significant part in the treatment of advanced cancer patients by offering relief from discomfort, airway blockage, shortness of breath, or coughing.

Radiation therapy is a "focused" treatment, meaning it's made to have the greatest impact on cancer cells while causing the least amount of harm to healthy cells. The most common source of radiation used to treat lung cancer is a machine (external radiation). In some cases, tubes used to deliver the radiation may insert a radioactive seed close to the tumour (internal radiation or brachytherapy).

  • Surgery

The "gold standard" for treating early-stage lung cancer is still surgery. For patients whose disease is confined, removing the tumour and surrounding lung tissue offers the highest chance of recovery. Thoracic surgeons who specialise in treating lung cancer and other chest malignancies should be the ones doing the operation. Your physician will determine whether a tumour can be removed (removable). Certain tumours are not always amenable to surgical excision due to their closeness to or invasion of significant structures.

Surgery might not be the best choice for patients with various medical conditions or compromised lung function. Our multidisciplinary team, which consists of pulmonologists, medical oncologists, and radiation oncologists, carefully decides this through daily collaboration.

Radiation therapy side effects are mostly influenced by the body part being treated and the radiation dose. Chest radiation therapy frequently causes dry, painful throats, swallowing issues, exhaustion, skin changes at the treatment site, and/or appetite loss.

A high-tech method, commonly called "radiosurgery," is an area of great innovation in radiation therapy. Radiosurgery, which uses extremely high doses of precisely targeted radiation that are specifically directed at the small tumour in the lung, is an effective alternative for a limited subset of patients who have small tumours but for whom surgery is not requested or is risky.

types of surgery are used to treat lung cancer

The location of the tumour in the lung, its size, the patient's body type and weight, and any prior chest operations will all influence how much lung tissue is removed and the surgical strategy that is taken. Minimally invasive techniques are taken into account when resection is required. Robotic surgery, video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS), and VATS lobectomy can all be done by qualified thoracic surgeons. Lung cancer surgery is often done as follows:

  1. Limited resection: Segmental or wedge resection refers to a surgery where only a tiny area of the lung is removed.
  2. Lobectomy: A lobectomy is the surgical removal of a specific portion of the lung (the right lung has three lobes and the left has two). The most frequent procedure for lung cancer is this one.
  3. Pneumonectomy: A pneumonectomy is the term for the removal of the complete lung.

The complexity of the procedure, its minimal invasiveness, the patient's age, and general level of fitness all play a role in how well they recover from thoracic surgery. After surgery, many patients go back to their homes in three to four days. Three weeks after a minimally invasive procedure, patients can typically resume their jobs.

Prevention of Lung Cancer

Although it is not feasible to completely avoid lung cancer, there are a number of activities one can do to lower their risk. They consist of the following:

  • Quit smoking, if applicable: Regardless of age or length of smoking history, stopping smoking can reduce the risk of lung cancer.
  • Avoid secondhand smoke: Breathing in smoke can cause numerous health issues and may increase the risk of lung cancer.
  • Follow a balanced diet: Consuming a range of fruit and vegetable sources of nutrients may help prevent lung cancer.
  • Avoid exposure to radon:An odourless, colourless gas known as radon has been linked to lung cancer. There are test kits available to check your home's radon levels. Additionally, in order to reduce health risks, people who work in regions where there is a higher risk of radon exposure should adhere to all safety recommendations.

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