Not everyone may be aware of it but lung cancer is considered the number one killer among all cancers in the world. As of 2018, there were 2.1 new cases reported and at least 1.8 million deaths from the condition.
The most common type of lung cancer is non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), which accounts for 80 to 85 percent of all cases. Small-cell lung cancer represents at least 15 to 20 percent of lung cancer cases.
While anyone can get lung cancer, smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke has been linked to as much as 90 percent of lung cancer cases. In the United States alone, at least 7,300 people who don’t smoke die from lung cancer that’s caused by second-hand smoke.
Symptoms of small-cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer are more or less identical. If you notice the following symptoms, visit the best lung cancer doctor you can find so the condition can be diagnosed accordingly and you will be given the right lung cancer treatment.
A lung cancer specialist will look for the following red flags:
- Lingering or worsening cough
- Coughing up blood or phlegm
- Chest pain that worsens when you laugh, cough, or breathe deeply
- Fatigue and weakness
- Shortness of breath
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
Some people with lung cancer will also experience recurrent respiratory infections like bronchitis and pneumonia. As the lung cancer spreads, additional symptoms might manifest, depending on where the new tumors form. For instance:
Lymph nodes: lumps, specifically in the collarbone or neck
Bones: bone pain, particularly in the ribs, hips, and back
Spine or brain: dizziness, balance issues, headache, or numbness in the legs or arms
Liver: yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice)
Tumors that develop at the top of the lungs may affect the facial nerves. This results in a small pupil, drooping of one eyelid, and lack of perspiration on one side of the face. These symptoms are collectively known as Horner syndrome. It also causes shoulder pain.
Lung cancer can also create a substance that’s similar to hormones. It causes a vast variety of symptoms known as paraneoplastic syndrome, including:
- Muscle weakness
- Fluid retention
- High blood sugar
- High blood pressure
While anyone can get lung cancer, 90 percent of the cases are attributed to smoking. From the moment smoke is inhaled into the lungs, it can damage the lung tissue. Normally, the lungs can repair the damage. However, continued exposure can make it increasingly difficult for the lungs to keep up with the repair.
When the cells are damaged, they can start to behave abnormally. This increases the likelihood of the individual developing lung cancer. Small-cell cancer is typically associated with heavy smoking. As soon as you stop smoking, your risk of developing lung cancer also decreases significantly.
According to the American Lung Association, exposure to radon, a radioactive gas is considered the second leading cause of lung cancer. Radon enters buildings through small cracks that are found in the foundation. Smokers who are also exposed to radon have a very high possibility of developing lung cancer.
Breathing in other substances that are hazardous especially over long periods might also cause lung cancer. Mesothelioma, a certain kind of lung cancer is considered caused by asbestos exposure.
Other harmful substances that might cause lung cancer include:
- Some petroleum products
Inherited genetic mutations may also put people at a higher risk of developing lung cancer. This is especially true if they smoke and are routinely exposed to other carcinogens.