early symptoms of lung cancer - what you should know
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The early symptoms of lung cancer you must know

Why is it important to spot the early symptoms of lung cancer? Because early diagnosis of the disease dramatically improves one's chances of survival.

Consider these facts. When lung cancer is detected at an early stage, the five year survival rate is around 50%. Compare this with the overall survival rate for all those diagnosed with lung cancer -- it is less than 15%.

This means that there is a huge difference in survival rates between those who were diagnosed early and those unfortunate enough to be diagnosed at a later stage when the cancer is far advanced. Late stage lung cancers are very difficult to treat primarily because the malignancy has spread to other parts of the body and possibly affected vital organs like the live and the brain.

In this context, knowing the early symptoms of lung cancer has the potential to save a life. Consulting a doctor early enough makes a world of difference to the patient.

The scary part is that fully a quarter of those who have been diagnosed with this killer disease report no lung cancer symptoms at all. So how was the disease detected? Often, through a chest x-ray or a CT scan done as part of a routine medical checkup or for other medical reasons.

In such cases, the lung cancer is confined to just one small tumor, often called a coin lesion. This is an early stage of the disease and offers the best chances of survival. Many doctors offer this possibility of early detection of tumors as a reason for including a chest x-ray in a routine physical exam.

The early symptoms of lung cancer
The symptoms are usually linked to the specific region affected by the cancer. If the lung tissues have been affected, the patient may report shortness of breath, pain in the chest, an unusually persistent cough, wheezing, etc that are related to breathing difficulties. In some cases, the cancer may have spread to other regions away from the bronchia, which can give rise to other symptoms.

For instance, if the cancer has spread to the esophagus, the patient may find it difficult to swallow food. Or if the cancer has affected the nerves, it may cause the patient's voice to become hoarse or even paralysis of the vocal cords.

A shoulder pain outside the arm may also indicate cancer that has affected the nerves. Extensive damage to the lung tissues may lead to a collapse of the lung. It may cause infections inside the lung including pneumonia. It can also lead to abscesses in the lung.

Many types of cancers including lung cancer show common symptoms like a sudden, unexplained weight loss, weakness or a feeling of lethargy and fatigue. The person's mood may change and he or she may show unusual irritability or depression / anxiety. Other infections may set in because of a weakened immune system.

Call a doctor if you have any of these signs and symptoms present:

  • A cough that doesn't go away or gets worse
  • Pain in the chest
  • Weight loss for no known reason
  • Frequent infections of the respiratory system
  • Wheezing / shortness of breath
  • Coughing up blood
  • Fatigue whether you exert yourself or not
  • Bronchitis that does not go away
You need to be particularly careful if you are a past or present smoker.

Keep these early symptoms of lung cancer in mind and make sure you consult a doctor if you have any cause for concern.

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