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First Symptoms of Lung Cancer

written by: BStone • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 1/13/2011

Are you at risk for lung cancer? What are the first symptoms of lung cancer? Learn how to recognize this disease in its early stages.

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    Cancer of the Lungs

    Lung cancer occurs when a cancerous growth forms in lung tissue. The growth can quickly grow and spread, sometimes to other parts of the body. There are over 220,000 new cases of lung cancer each year in the United States alone. There are an estimated 157,300 deaths, making lung cancer the deadliest of all forms of this disease.

    Knowing how to recognize the first symptoms of lung cancer is important for being able to start treating a tumor as soon as possible. Whether you have a high risk for this disease or not learn about the signs of a growth.

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    Early Symptoms

    Before a tumor has spread to other parts of the body, possible symptoms revolve mostly around the lungs. The most common signs to be aware of include:

    • Coughing that is not due to a respiratory infection. Many long-time smokers may cough regularly, but if this cough changes in any way it is important to see your doctor. People who do not smoke but who develop an unexplainable cough may want to make a doctor's appointment, especially if middle aged — the average age of diagnosis for lung cancer is 60 year of age.
    • Coughing up blood is another telltale sign. Coughing up any amount of blood may be a sign of a cancerous growth in the lungs.
    • Chest pain is another common symptom, although this can also be a sign of other health conditions such as heart disease. Consider the development of a persistent pain in the chest a reason to see your health care practitioner.
    • Trouble breathing, in the form of shortness of breath, wheezing, and hoarseness can all be signs as well. Inflammation, fluid, or even tumor growth can all cause blockages which are likely to disturb breathing.

    Other possible signs include weight loss, fatigue, a swelling in the neck or face, an unexplained fever, and reoccurring respiratory infections.

    There are many easy to recognize signs of lung cancer, however it is important to keep in mind that not everyone experiences symptoms. One-quarter of all the people who are diagnosed with this disease had not experienced symptoms before the cancer was discovered.

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    Risk Factors

    cigarette Everyone should be aware of the possible early symptoms of this type of cancer as no one is immune. However, people who have smoked or continue to smoke cigarettes, who are exposed to second-hand smoke, who have been exposed to asbestos, heavy metals, or chemical carcinogens in the home or workplace, who have a family history of cancer, or who have had lung diseases or lung cancer in the past should be particularly aware of the well-being of their respiratory system.

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    When to Visit the Doctor

    If you experience any of the first symptoms of lung cancer is it important to visit your doctor? There is no reason not to check with your doctor if symptoms are persistent, whether you are at high risk or not. There are many potential causes of most of these signs, but early detection is not something to give up. Talk to your doctor about your symptoms and they will decide what and if any testing is necessary.

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    References

    WebMD <http://www.webmd.com/lung-cancer/guide/lung-cancer-symptoms>

    National Cancer Institute <http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/lung>

    Balch, Phyllis A. "Prescription for Nutritional Healing." Fourth Edition (Penguin Books, 2006).

    photo by Marius Mellbye