Lung cancer is among the three leading cancers diagnosed among the male and female population in Singapore. While lung cancer is more common in people above 40 years old, cigarette smoking remains to be the number one risk factor of lung cancer which increases with the frequency and duration of smoking. But for non-smokers, secondhand smoke is also another major risk factor.
There are often no symptoms of lung cancer during its early stages – they usually appear when the cancer has reached more advanced stages. However, there are still some signs you can look out for that might warrant a visit to the doctor. Learn what they are below and find out how early cancer screening tests are beneficial for people at high risk for it.
1. Persistent cough
Watch out for a new cough that persists. A cough usually associated with a respiratory or cold infection will be gone in about a week or maybe two. But, a persistent cough that lingers beyond that time frame might be a symptom of lung cancer. See a doctor as soon as possible if you also have these associated symptoms: chest pain, shortness of breath, blood or rust-coloured phlegm.
Wheezing can occur when you breathe in and when you breathe out, created by a narrowing of the airways. While wheezing has many potential causes, it is also one of the symptoms of lung cancer – making it important for you to identify the cause quickly. With lung cancer, obstruction of the airway by the tumour leads to the wheezing sound.
3. Shortness of breath
Another distressing symptom of lung cancer is shortness of breath. Known as dyspnea, it causes you to experience tightness in your chest or have difficulty catching your breath. This can come when you’re engaging in a physical activity, or even while you’re resting.
Changes in breathing can occur when lung cancer tumours grow in a way that obstructs airways, place pressure on the lungs or cause inflammation in the respiratory system. So, if you find it hard to breathe after performing tasks that were once easy, it is worth to have it checked out.
4. Pain in the chest area
Whether it’s a sharp, constant or intermittent pain you noticed in your chest, it could indicate that there are blockages in your lungs, such as enlarged lymph nodes, tumours, or fluid build-up.
You should also pay attention to whether the pain is confined to a specific area or occurs throughout your chest. See a doctor if the chest pain feels worse when you breathe deeply, laugh or cough.
5. Bone pain
It can be difficult to tell the difference between bone and muscle pain, but take note if your pain increases at night, with movement or while lying on your back. Lung cancer that has spread to the bones may produce pain in the back. It can also be associated with arm, neck or shoulder pain, though this is less common. Be attentive to the aches and pains you’ve experienced and discuss them with your doctor.
Early cancer screening is key
Knowing the warning signs of lung cancer can allow you to get screened earlier so you have more treatment options with a much better success rate. The two tests that are used to screen for this disease are Chest X-ray and Sputum cytology, which help to reveal any abnormal mass/nodule or the presence of lung cancer cells.
The good news is, the risk of developing lung cancer can also be reduced by avoiding or quitting smoking. Be sure to eat a diet full of fruits and vegetables, exercise regularly and drink alcohol in moderation.
If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms that are associated with lung cancer or qualify as an individual at high risk, consult a doctor as soon as possible. A recognised cancer treatment centre in Singapore, International Cancer Specialists (ICS) has a team of specialised physicians and surgeons who have the expertise to deliver patient-centred care in cancer diagnosis and treatment. We also provide screenings for a number of cancers including lung, breast and prostate cancer. Contact us to arrange for an appointment.