Of all the different types of cancer, lung cancer is the leading culprit for cancer-related deaths. It is a disease that affects the lung tissue and can spread to other parts of the body if left untreated.
Unfortunately, lung cancer often goes undetected until it is in its later stages. This is why it is important to be aware of the early warning signs of lung cancer, so that you can seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Stages of Lung Cancer
Lung cancer is typically classified into four stages. Each stage represents a different level of progression of the cancer.
● Stage 1: The cancer has not yet spread beyond the lung tissues.
● Stage 2: The cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes.
● Stage 3: The cancer has grown large and spread through the lymph nodes to other parts of the chest.
● Stage 4: The cancer has now spread to more distant parts of the body.
There are several known risk factors that can increase your risk of developing lung cancer. These include:
● Smoking: The most significant risk factor for lung cancer is smoking. The longer you smoke and the more cigarettes you smoke per day, the greater your risk of developing lung cancer.
● Exposure to carcinogens: Exposure to certain chemicals and pollutants, such as asbestos, radon, or air pollution, can also raise your risk of lung cancer.
● Family history: A family history of lung cancer may indicate a higher likelihood of developing lung cancer.
● Personal history of lung disease: People who have a history of chronic lung diseases, such as COPD or emphysema, have an increased risk of lung cancer.
It is important to note that even if you do not smoke, you can still develop lung cancer.
Types of Lung Cancer
Lung cancer can be divided into two main types:
● Small cell lung cancer: This type of lung cancer makes up about 15% of cases. It tends to grow and spread more quickly than non-small cell lung cancer.
● Non-small cell lung cancer: This type is the most common form of lung cancer and makes up about 85% of cases. It tends to grow and spread more slowly than small cell lung cancer.
There are several subtypes of non-small cell lung cancer, including:
● Adenocarcinoma: This type of non-small cell lung cancer starts in the glands and makes up about 40% of cases.
● Squamous cell carcinoma: This lung cancer starts in the flat cells that line the airways and makes up about 25% of cases.
● Large cell carcinoma: This lung cancer can start anywhere in the lung and makes up about 10% of cases.
Your healthcare team will diagnose the specific type of lung cancer you have so that they can determine your prognosis and treatment plan.
No matter what type of lung cancer you have, here are some common symptoms that you are likely to experience:
Persistent or Bloody Cough
One of the characteristic symptoms of lung cancer is a new and persistent cough that doesn’t go away. This can be a dry cough or a cough that produces phlegm. In some cases, the cough may produce blood.
Shortness of Breath
Lung cancer can cause shortness of breath, even when you are not physically active. This can be caused by a tumor or fluid buildup blocking the airways that allow you to breathe properly.
If the tumor (or the resulting fluid buildup) presses against the chest wall or the surrounding nerves, you may experience chest pain. This pain can be sharp or dull, and may worsen with deep breathing or coughing.
Changes in Voice
Lung cancer can also cause changes in your voice, such as hoarseness or raspiness. This is because the tumor may be pressing against the vocal cords, causing them to become irritated or swollen.
Fatigue or Weight Loss
As tumors grow, they tend to steal energy and nutrients from the body, leading to fatigue and weight loss. This can happen even if you are eating a normal diet and not experiencing any other symptoms. Additionally, as the cancer spreads, it can cause anemia or other nutrient deficiencies, which can also lead to fatigue and weakness.