What You Need to Know about Lung Cancer
Chronic cough, shortness of breath, prolonged mucus production, wheezing, coughing up blood, chronic chest pain or unexplained weight loss are all symptoms that may indicate lung cancer. It is important to visit your physician if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, regardless of your smoking history. According to the American Lung Association, approximately two-thirds of lung cancer diagnoses are in people who have never smoked or are former smokers. Don’t wait; the earlier the disease is diagnosed, the better the chances are of survival.
“The problem with lung cancer is that once you have symptoms, it’s often too late,” Dr. McKee explains. “That’s why it’s the No. 1 cancer killer of men and women in the United States. For the 30 percent who are diagnosed with early stage disease, it is discovered by accident. For example, a patient may have sprained their back and pulled a muscle. When an X-ray is done to look at the spine, they see a nodule in the lung.”
However, for people who are at high risk for lung cancer, screening will detect lung cancer in the earliest stages about 75 percent of the time, leading to a cure 90 percent of the time. The American Lung Association recommends all women at high risk receive regular screenings. This could save 13,000 lives a year.
“The screening for lung cancer is a simple test,” says Dr. McKee. “If someone is coming in with a persistent cough, the doctor should get a chest X-ray just to make sure they aren’t missing something. Anyone with a reason to be concerned they may have lung cancer should have a CT scan done.”
Make sure to communicate with your doctor about any concerns you may have and be persistent when necessary. “The only way you can help tackle this disease is to participate in a dialogue with your doctors and each other,” says Dr. McKee.
Gia Miller is a freelance health and wellness writer living in Katonah, New York. She strongly believes in being your own health advocate.