There’s one constant in all types of lung cancer: early diagnosis followed by treatment is a key to survival.
Here are the most common symptoms of lung cancer, according to the American Cancer Society:
- A cough that does not go away or gets worse
- Coughing up blood or rust-colored sputum (spit or phlegm)
- Chest pain that is often worse with deep breathing, coughing, or laughing
- Weight loss and loss of appetite
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling tired or weak
- Infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia that don’t go away or keep coming back
- New onset of wheezing
If lung cancer spreads to distant organs, it may cause:
- Bone pain (like pain in the back or hips)
- Nervous system changes (such as headache, weakness or numbness of an arm or leg), or dizziness, balance problems, or seizures, from cancer spreading to the brain or spinal cord
- Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice), from cancer spreading to the liver
- Lumps near the surface of the body, due to cancer spreading to the skin or to lymph nodes (collections of immune system cells), such as those in the neck or above the collarbone
What can you do?
Most lung cancers do not cause any symptoms, which is why it’s especially important to get screened if you and your doctor think you’re at high risk.
At Beebe Healthcare, new investments in technology and training have allowed us to meet the best evidence-based clinical practice guidelines around who should be tested for lung cancer and how they should be treated.
This includes our use of 3D imaging to navigate the lung’s narrow passages where most tumors reside and test growths for the presence of cancer, a technique called “navigational bronchoscopy.” If we catch lung cancer early enough, we use a team approach to remove tumors before they have a chance to spread.
Our screening process begins with a more established technology, a low-dose computed tomography, or CT, scan. This quick and painless test can spot potential growths that, if necessary, we can investigate further with navigational bronchoscopy and other tools.
If all or some of the following criteria apply to you, a test could help you find lung cancer early:
- 55 to 74 years old
- Have smoked a pack a day for 30 years (or the equivalent, such as 15 years of two packs a day)
- Are either smoking or have quit within the last 15 years
Not Just Smokers
These guidelines focus on smoking, of course, because it is a major risk factor for lung cancer. People who smoke are 25 times more likely to develop lung cancer than nonsmokers are.
However, not everyone who develops lung cancer smokes — up to 20 percent of the people who die from lung cancer in the United States, about 30,000 people a year, have never smoked. If lung cancer in non-smokers were in its own category, it would rank among the top 10 fatal cancers in the country.
If you’re interested in having a health screening but not sure where to start, Cancer Screening Nurse Navigator Deb Campbell can help. Call her at (302) 645-3169.