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Lung Cancer Awareness Month: Early signs and symptoms of lung cancer

Lung cancer, a serious and potentially deadly cancer that starts in the lungs, is one of the most common cancers in the world. It affects a person’s ability to breath. In India, cases of lung cancer are on the rise mainly due to air pollution. Studies have shown that air pollution, both outdoor and indoor, can increase the risk of lung cancer particularly among the young. Lung Cancer Awareness Month, observed throughout November, aims to raise awareness about this deadly cancer, including its risk factors and ways to reduce the burden of the disease.

About 90 per cent of lung cancer cases are a result of smoking cigarettes, although anyone can get the disease. Other risk factors include high levels of pollution, exposure to secondhand smoke radiation, and radon gas, and a family history of lung cancer, etc.

It is difficult to identify lung cancer in its initial stages, considering the fact that the symptoms are similar to those of a respiratory infection, or sometimes, people may not show symptoms at all. Hence, lung cancer is often diagnosed when the tumour has grown quite large or the disease becomes advanced. Lung cancer, if detected at an earlier stage, is more likely to be successfully treated. So, learning about the disease, including the signs and symptoms, can be helpful.

What are the signs and symptoms of lung cancer?

Signs and symptoms of lung cancer may include the following:

  1. A cough that doesn’t go away
  2. Coughing up blood, even a small amount
  3. Shortness of breath
  4. Hoarseness
  5. Wheezing
  6. Frequent chest infection – like bronchitis or pneumonia
  7. Chest pain
  8. Weight loss
  9. Appetite loss
  10. Unexplained headache
  11. A cough that doesn’t go away
  12. Coughing up blood, even a small amount
  13. Fatigue

As the tumour spreads, a person may also experience severe symptoms, including:

  • Bone pain – particularly in the back, ribs, or hips
  • Lymph nodes
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes, or jaundice

Treatment for lung cancer depends on the type, stage, as well as the overall health of the patient. Possible treatments include – surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and targeted therapy. You must visit a doctor if you or anyone in your family shows any persistent symptoms of concern. Finding lung cancer earlier and getting the required treatment immediately can help improve the patient’s quality of life.

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