Lung cancer is a very common disease in the western world, and it is prevalent and well-known globally as well. How do you know if the cough you are experiencing is just that - a cough, and not something more serious, such as lung cancer? Every year, there are over a million deaths due to lung cancer. How can you make sure you are not one of the statistics?
Lung cancer is a difficult disease to diagnose. The actual signs of the disease are not usually visible until it is nearly too late to cure. The disease itself is an attack on the cells of the lungs. It can affect one or both lungs, but no matter where it tends to start, the disease can spread rapidly from the lungs to the lymph nodes (lymphoma), and to other sensitive organs in the body. Cancer may also spread in a reciprocal direction as well. Our spongy lungs cover a vast area of our upper torso and this "sponginess" is what helps to create an ideal environment for the disease. The walls of the lungs that separate the tissue from the blood allowing for the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in a complex cycle are very thin. If cells in the lung become cancerous, it is possible that they could enter the bloodstream at some point and be carried to different organs and tissues within the body.
The risk factor of smoking is taught and advertised to most people on a regular basis in an effort to prevent the possibility of getting the disease, as smoking is considered to be the number one cause of lung cancer. While the risk factors can be more easily deduced, the actual symptoms for lung cancer are not as easy to diagnose as the disease. Many of the symptoms are simply indications that can be experienced on any given day, by any number of people, with any number of milder ailments.
So how can you tell the difference? One way is to "know yourself first." If an individual gets the occasional cough or cold, but over a course of time the coughs and/or colds become much more frequent and harder to treat, a consideration should be given to the possibility of disease. If any of the coughs are paired with a loss of appetite or weight loss, any sign of blood being coughed up, or a change in voice that is unexplained, the advice of a medical professional should be sought. In the same fashion that blood appearing in your urine or faeces can be a major symptom of colon or rectal cancer, the presence of blood coming from the chest when breathing or coughing can be a major symptom of lung cancer.
Because many symptoms of lung cancer are difficult to decipher, a thorough radiological examination, along with a healthy diet that does not include smoking, are the best measures to keep that cough as "just a cough" however any concern that you may have should be referred to a doctor as soon as possible.
The Royal Brompton Hospital is one of the world's leading heart and lung centres, renowned for its expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer. If you're looking for more information about early lung cancer symptoms visit us today.