Lung cancer: Signs and symptoms to look out for
Lung cancer is one of the most common and serious types of cancer – around 47,000 people are diagnosed with the condition every year in the UK. There are usually no signs or symptoms in the early stages of lung cancer, but many people with the condition eventually develop symptoms. Coughing up phlegm is one of the most common warning signs of lung cancer.
According to Cancer Research UK, coughing up phlegm can be a sign of lung cancer if there is blood in it.
Other cough-related warning signs include having a cough most of the time and having a change in a cough you’ve had for a long time – it may sound different or be painful when you cough, explains the charity.
It is worth nothing that a cough is also one of the main symptoms of coronavirus.
“It is still important to contact your GP if you have a new or worsening cough,” adds Cancer Research UK.
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Other symptoms of lung cancer include:
- 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.
Noticing symptoms? How to respond
According to the NHS, you should see a GP if you have symptoms of lung cancer, such as breathlessness or a persistent cough.
As the health body explains, the GP will ask about your general health and your symptoms.
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“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,” it says.
Am I at risk?
There are some factors that can increase your risk of developing lung cancer.
Having any of these risk factors doesn’t mean that you will definitely get cancer, however.
Smoking tobacco is the biggest cause of lung cancer in the UK – around seven out of 10 lung cancers are caused by smoking, reports Cancer Research UK.
If you are struggling to quit smoking, you call the NHS Smokefree helpline on 0300 123 1044, open Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm and Saturday to Sunday, 11am to 4pm.
Some substances increase the risk of developing lung cancer.
“These include asbestos, silica, and diesel exhaust. People can be exposed to these through their work,” warns Cancer Research UK.
Other risk factors include:
- Air pollution
- Previous lung disease
- Exposure to radon gas
- Family history of lung cancer.
Lung cancer – how to treat it
Deciding what treatment is best for you can be difficult.
“Your cancer team will make recommendations, but the final decision will be yours,” explains the NHS.
“The most common treatment options include surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and immunotherapy.”
It adds: “Depending on the type of cancer and the stage, you may receive a combination of these treatments.”
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