Lung cancer is one of the most common and serious types of cancer in the UK. Partly what makes it so serious is that does not usually cause noticeable symptoms until it’s spread through the lungs or into other parts of the body. This means the outlook for the condition is not as promising as many other types of cancer.
However, as the NHS points out, survival rates vary widely, depending on how far the cancer has spread at the time of diagnosis.
It is therefore imperative to act on the warning signs as soon as they appear.
According to the NHS, one of the main symptoms associated with lung cancer is a cough that doesn’t go away after two or three weeks.
Other main symptoms include:
- A long-standing cough that gets worse
- Chest infections that keep coming back
- Coughing up blood
- An ache or pain when breathing or coughing
- Persistent breathlessness
- Persistent tiredness or lack of energy
- Loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss.
Less common symptoms of lung cancer include:
Changes in the appearance of your fingers, such as becoming more curved or their ends becoming larger (this is known as finger clubbing)
- Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia) or pain when swallowing
- A hoarse voice
- Swelling of your face or neck
- Persistent chest or shoulder pain.
How to respond
“See a GP if you have symptoms of lung cancer, such as breathlessness or a persistent cough,” advises the NHS.
As the health body explains, the GP will ask about your general health and your symptoms.
“They may examine you and ask you to breathe into a device called a spirometer, which measures how much air you breathe in and out,” says the health site.
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You may be asked to have a blood test to rule out some of the possible causes of your symptoms, such as a chest infection, it adds.
Am I at risk?
Most cases of lung cancer are caused by smoking, although people who have never smoked can also develop the condition.
According to Cancer Research UK, Around seven out of 10 lung cancers are caused by smoking – this includes breathing in other people’s cigarette smoke.
“Even light or occasional smoking increases the risk of lung cancer,” the charity warns.
Some substances can also increase the risk of lung cancer – these include asbestos, silica, and cadmium.
Research also suggests that being exposed to diesel fumes over many years increases your risk of developing lung cancer.
One study has shown your risk of developing lung cancer increases by around 33 percent if you live in an area with high levels of nitrogen oxide gases (mostly produced by cars and other vehicles).
This means that people who are regularly exposed to exhaust fumes through their jobs have a higher risk of developing lung cancer.
Your Genetic makeup may also determine your risk of developing lung cancer.
As Cancer Research UK explains, your risk of lung cancer is higher if you have a close relative (such as a parent or sibling) who has had lung cancer.
“Researchers are looking at how our genes could affect our risk of lung cancer,” says the health body.
How is it treated?
According to the NHS, the most common treatment options include surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and immunotherapy.
“Depending on the type of cancer and the stage, you may receive a combination of these treatments,” says the health body.
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