Lung cancer symptoms usually don’t show in the early stages, but with this type of cancer being one of the most common and serious types, it’s important to recognise the first signs when they develop. According to the NHS, around 44,500 people are diagnosed with lung cancer every year in the UK. A cough is one of the most recognised signs of lung cancer. But what differentiates a lung cancer cough from a cough that comes with a common cold or flu?
There are seven signs related to a cough which can signal lung cancer, according to Macmillan Cancer Support.
- A cough for three weeks or more
- A change in a cough you have had for a long time
- A chest infection that does not get better, or getting repeated chest infections
- Feeling breathless and wheezy for no reason
- Coughing up blood
- Chest or shoulder pain that does not get better
- A hoarse voice for three weeks or more
Feeling tired and losing weight for no obvious reason are two other signs associated with lung cancer to look out for.
The cancer charity notes: “If you have any of these symptoms, it is important to get them checked by your GP.
“Some of these symptoms can be caused by other lung conditions or by smoking.
“Lung cancer is occasionally diagnosed by chance when a person is having tests for another condition.”
What causes lung cancer?
There are a number of risk factors that can increase your risk of developing lung cancer.
Smoking tobacco is a well-known risk factor. Cancer Research UK explains: “Smoking tobacco is the biggest cause of lung cancer in the UK. Around 7 out of 10 lung cancers are caused by smoking. This includes breathing in other people’s cigarette smoke.
“Even light or occasional smoking increases the risk of lung cancer. But your risk increases more the longer you smoke and the more you smoke. Stopping smoking is the best think you can do for your health. The sooner you stop, the better.”
Air pollution, previous cases of lung disease, exposure to radon gas and a family history of lung cancer are also risk factors for the condition.
But it’s important to note these risk factors don’t necessarily mean a person will definitely get cancer.
Treatment for lung cancer
How your lung cancer is treated depends on the type of lung cancer you have and how far it’s spread.
There are two types of lung cancer – non-small-cell lung cancer and small-cell lung cancer.
Non-small-lung cancer is the most common type, and small-cell lung cancer is a less common type that usually spreads faster.
Bupa advises: “It may be possible to cure some types of non-small cell lung cancer with surgery, if it’s at an early-stage and hasn’t spread.
“Lung cancer can be difficult to cure because it may have already spread by the time you’re diagnosed.
“If it isn’t possible to cure your cancer, your treatment will aim to extend your life and improve your quality of life as much as possible. This is called palliative care.”