Early signs of lung cancer and why screening is important
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in men and women in the United States, representing…
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in men and women in the United States, accounting for about 25% of all cancer deaths, according to the American Cancer Society. More people die from lung cancer than from breast, colon and prostate cancer combined.
Most cases of lung cancer are associated with smoking. However, 10-20% of lung cancers are unrelated to smoking, reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cancer in this population group may be linked to:
– Air pollution.
– Diesel exhaust.
– Family history of lung cancer.
– Second-hand smoke.
– Chemicals in the workplace.
In some patients, you never know what caused the lung cancer, says Dr Mark Dylewski, head of thoracic surgery at Baptist Health South Florida In Miami.
[SEE: Ways to Improve Lung Health.]
First signs of lung cancer
Unfortunately for those with lung cancer, symptoms are not common in the early stages, says Dr Jobelle Baldonado, thoracic surgeon at Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute in Tampa.
One of the reasons for this is that the lungs don’t have a lot of nerve endings, which helps the body feel pain. Lung cancer has four stages. Step 1 and sometimes step 2 are considered the first steps. Stages 3 and 4 are more advanced. It is much more common to diagnose late stage lung cancer when more obvious symptoms appear.
If there are early signs of lung cancer, they can include the following:
– A new or worsening cough. This sign can be misleading because smokers often already have a cough. “It can hide for months or years until it gets worse and the patient recognizes it’s abnormal,” Dylewski explains.
– Coughing up blood may occur, but only occasionally in the early stages.
The location of the tumor can make a difference, says Dr. Mara Antonoff, associate professor of thoracic and cardiovascular surgery at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. A tumor located closer to the main airways can cause symptoms early, even if the tumor is small.
As lung cancer progresses, some of the more common signs include:
– Bone pain.
– Chest pain.
– Recurrent lung infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia.
– The voice changes.
These signs can occur when the cancer spreads to other parts of the body.
Not all coughs and other associated symptoms indicate lung cancer. It can also be other breathing problems, such as:
That’s why it’s important to see a healthcare professional if you have symptoms that do not improve or chronic symptoms that change, advises Antonoff.
How screening helps identify early lung cancer
Because lung cancer is so common in smokers, but also difficult to detect early, the U.S. Prevention Services Task Force recommends an annual low-dose CT scan in people who meet all the criteria. following:
– Have what is called 20 pack-years or more of smoking history. Pack-year refers to smoking one pack of cigarettes per day for one year. You could reach 20 pack-years by smoking one pack per day for 20 years or two packets per day for 10 years.
– Smoke now or have quit in the past 15 years.
– You are between 50 and 80 years old. Lung cancer is more common in people 65 and older, according to the ACS.
With a low dose CT scan, you are lying on a table. A special machine will use a small amount of radiation to take images of the lungs. There is no pain or special preparation involved. This scan can help healthcare providers look for tumors.
A primary care doctor can refer you to a local facility that will do a low-dose CT scan. You can also search for “lung cancer screening” on the website of a local medical center to find out if they perform this type of screening. Lung cancer screening centers will follow qualified patients to encourage them to undergo annual screenings, Dylewski said.
Private insurance or Health Insurance will cover the cost of testing for those who meet the testing criteria. If this test reveals anything abnormal, your health care provider may order additional testing.
the screening guidelines, which were updated in 2021 to include a larger group of patients, target those with a reasonable risk of lung cancer so that more cancers can be detected at an early stage, says Antonoff. However, Baldonado adds, many people do not get tested because they are not aware of the testing recommendations.
Sometimes these tests can have a false positive result. This means that the results seem to indicate the presence of a tumor even though there really isn’t one. A study called the National lung screening trial found a false positive rate of 23%, which is a bit high, according to Baldonado.
By performing annual screenings, false positives can be reduced because providers can compare the appearance of your lungs on previous screenings to any new results. This improves accuracy.
Getting a scan at a medical center with more experience screening for lung cancer can also help reduce false positives from scans. These centers generally devote more effort to smoking cessation programs.
There are no current guidelines to help screen for non-smokers because health experts don’t yet know how to determine which non-smokers are most at risk for lung cancer, Antonoff says.
Coping with the first signs of lung cancer
If you think you have any signs of lung cancer, you should contact a doctor about them. If you are concerned about the lung cancer screening results, here are some tips to help you cope:
1. try stop smoking. Ask your doctor for resources or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW for assistance.
2. If you choose to smoke and qualify for a CT scan, be sure to do so every year. Also, stay on top of everything annual health checks. Of course, it’s best to quit because of all the damage smoking does to your body, says Dylewski.
3. Seek the support of your friends and family. Share your concerns with them. You can also search for support groups online or in your local community.
4. If you are screened and there is an abnormality that may indicate cancer, it is appropriate to get a second opinion, said Dylewski. Thoracic surgeons and thoracic oncologists are doctors who regularly treat patients with lung cancer.
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Early signs of lung cancer and why screening is important originally appeared on usnews.com