It’s easy for lung cancer to go undetected. It is important to catch symptoms early before the cancer reaches advanced stages. Risk factors, including age and genetics, play a significant role in predetermining diagnoses.
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Early Symptoms of Lung Cancer
The earliest symptoms of lung cancer can be easily overlooked or downplayed. Sure, you’ve had a persistent cough, but it’s cold and flu season, and you’ve had a virus or bug that just won’t go away.
While these symptoms don’t immediately indicate lung cancer, they might mean it’s time for a screening.
- A cough that gets worse over time. Persistent coughing which has lingered longer than normal, especially if followed by blood or red-colored phlegm.
- Chest pain. Pain when inhaling or exhaling could be an early sign of cancer.
- Shortness of Breath. If you find yourself short of breath after doing easy tasks, or the physical activity you are used to becomes difficult.
- Pneumonia and Bronchitis. Chest infections may be more difficult to get rid of or recur more frequently when cancer is present.
- Loss of appetite. Many forms of cancer cause a decrease in appetite. This may cause weight loss, and should be discussed with your doctor.
Symptoms of Advanced Lung Cancer
Symptoms of advanced lung cancer are generally caused when the disease has spread to other organs in the body. Common symptoms include:
- Bone and joint pain caused by cancer spreading to the bones, referred to as bone metastasis.
- Jaundice, or yellowing of your skin and eyes caused by cancer of the liver.
- Swollen lymph nodes, signaling the cancer has spread to the collection of your immune system cells. These are most commonly felt in the neck and behind the ear, but are also present under your arms, in your groin area, and on the back of your head.
- Changes in your nervous system could mean the cancer has spread to parts of your spine or brain. These symptoms include sudden seizures, dizziness, and weakness in your arms and legs.
Other Syndromes Caused by Lung Cancer
Lung cancer with a list of specific symptoms has been identified as syndromes. These are classified into two groups based on whether the location of the cancer causes specific symptoms or the presence of abnormal hormones get carried to distant parts of the body.
Horner Syndrome and Superior Vena Cava Syndrome are classified as issues with the location of the cancer or tumors in the lungs.
Syndromes based on hormone levels are called Paraneoplastic Syndromes. The two most common paraneoplastic syndromes are Carcinoid Syndrome and SIADH. Although rare, these syndromes can be a way to find symptoms for early detection.
Other more common symptoms caused by hormone levels can be present such as blood clots, breast growth in men, elevated blood calcium levels, thickening of bones and nervous system problems.
Symptoms are localized to one side of the face. This causes problems with the eyes as well with weakness in one eyelid and smaller pupils in one eye. Shoulder pain is common, along with the lack of sweating on one side of the face. These symptoms are due to the cancer being present on the top of the lungs.
Superior Vena Cava Syndrome (SVC)
The superior vena cava vein is located on the upper part of the right lung. Its function is to carry blood from the head and arms to the heart. Swelling of the upper body is associated with SVC, and if affecting the brain, dizziness, headaches and a change in mental function can be present.
SIADH (Syndrome of Inappropriate Antidiuretic Hormone)
A paraneoplastic syndrome based on abnormal hormones, the cancer creates ADH which causes the kidneys to retain water and lowers salt levels in the blood. If left untreated, it can contribute to seizures and coma. Common symptoms include fatigue, weight loss, vomiting and confusion.
Also a paraneoplastic syndrome, this is caused by the ATCH hormone which causes the adrenal glands to emit cortisol. It can cause high blood pressure, and in some cases diabetes. Symptoms consist of weight gain, weakness, drowsiness, and fluid retention.
How to Detect Lung Cancer?
Lung cancer can be detected through a simple x-ray. However, it’s harder to spot in the early stages. In order for doctors to accurately diagnose, patients might undergo a series of tests including:
- CT Scans
- Sputum Cytology (a test of sputum secreted when coughing)
- Biopsy (tissue samples)
- Blood Testing
Testing will vary depending on advanced stages and onset of symptoms. Once a diagnosis is made, treatment options will be available as well as support to assist you.
You can also take control of your health with a heart and lung scan at Advanced Body Scan of Tulsa. Contact us today at 918-879-6161 to schedule this life-saving scan.