‘Right diagnosis and early detection of lung cancer symptoms is key to healthy recovery’
Dr. Ramakant Deshpande
“There are several symptoms to watch for that may turn into chronic lung disorders including cancer if left untreated for long. Dr. Ramakant Deshpande, Chief of Thoracic Surgical Oncology, Asian Institute of Oncology explains the importance of timely diagnosis of some chronic syndromes that may lead to spread of lung cancer.”
Lungs are for breathing, peaceful breathing, and to ensure uninterrupted supply of fresh oxygen for body organs. Any inhibition in breathing is cause by several factors including smoking, drinking, environmental pollution etc. Over the year, the cases of lung cancer in India are on the rise and impacting lots of people including women.
“Lung cancer is developed by inhaling carcinogens either via polluted air or smoking, but people who smoke have 30 times more chances of developing lung cancer. Twenty years back, the average age of developing lung cancer was 50-60 in India, which has come down to 40 years now. At that time women was not among lung cancer patient, but now they form a significant chunk of lung cancer patients,” informs Dr. Ramakant Deshpande.
There are specific symptoms for cancer patients that prompt a doctor to conduct a physical and provisional diagnosis. This helps a doctor to perform cancer staging and assess the severity of the disease.
1. Hacking Cough
The term hacking cough refers to a dry cough that lasts for a long and could be very irritating for patients. Dry cough which lasts for over two months can be chronic and patients must seek a specialist chest physician, as it may lead to chronic lung disorder e. g. cancer. Especially, smokers should notice any changes in their coughing patterns and get tested immediately.
Even if you are a nonsmoker and having dry cough with other symptoms, it could be a serious lung infection or cancer.
2. Shortness of breath
The problem in breathing caused by fluid accumulation inside the chest cavity that blocks the airways. If this fluid is coming from a tumor build up in the chest then it could be lung cancer. A sudden change in breathing patterns needs urgent attention from the doctor. Blockage in airways leads to whistling or wheezing sound while breathing, which could be due to benign or chronic disorders. Patients should not assume and relate it with allergies or asthma, rather see a doctor.
Bleeding in airways that may cause coughing up blood can be a serious issue sometimes caused by lung cancer. This symptom need through examination to establish the exact cause of bleeding and get proper treatment.
4. Chest Pain
Persistent or unexplained pain in the chest and adjoining areas of the body may indicate advanced lung cancer. The chest pain may be localized or throughout the chest or nearby parts, which required proper diagnosis by an expert physician or oncologist if needed. The metastasis of lymph nodes may spread to entire lungs or bones or in brain cells.
5. Weight loss
Unexplained or sudden loss of weight may due to lung cancer, as infected cells consume more energy. This can be also due to changed energy consumption patterns by the body from food. Unless you are on a dieting or exercise regime, don’t take sudden weight loss lightly.
6. Loss of appetite
Some lung cancer patient may also experience a sudden loss of appetite along with issues in swallowing and chewing. Around 90% people, who are at an advanced stage of lung cancer, may experience this symptom. However, some medications may also affect the appetite.
7. Lump in the neck
Sometimes lung cancer doesn’t show symptoms until it spreads to the other parts like neck or armpit. A swollen gland along with sore throat may be linked with lung cancer and require immediate medical intervention.
8. Blood clots all over the body
Thrombi or blood clots can occur due to nature of the disease or side effects of heavy medication. These blood clots formed in various parts of the body start to lodge inside lungs causing death of the patient. Any type of blood clotting should be examined by expert oncologists.
9. Generalized weakness
This symptom refers to body fatigue and muscle weakness, mainly in the lower limbs. This is prominently caused by small cell lung cancer but can also occur due to other firms of lung cancer.
10. Right side abdominal pain
A feeling of discomfort in right abdomen area along with weight loss, itchy skin, yellowing of the eye’s white portion and skin in general, sickness, swollen tummy and poor appetite. This is a sign of lung cancer spread to the liver.
Line of treatment
Lung cancer that has spread beyond lungs may lead to nausea, pain, headaches along with other symptoms depending on the area of infection. Lung cancer in advanced stages is very difficult to cure and often treatments are given to reduce the signs and offer painless life to patients. But an early detection and diagnosis of the disease can definitely save the life and further spread of the disease. In early-stage 95% chances are there for the cure of lung cancer.
“In case of persistent symptoms a person must seek a doctor. Smoking, chewing tobacco or even e-Cigarette that contains nicotine may cause lung cancer,” warns Dr. Deshpande.
Nowadays, the line of treatment is decided by all experts including physicians, oncologists, radiation therapists through proper case studies and discussion in advance. This helps in better disease management. In addition, a psycho-oncology consultant explains the condition to the patient to get him ready for treatment. The consultations also consider side effects and treatment thereof as well as any adjuvant therapy required for the patient.
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Dr. Ramakant Deshpande
MS; FICS; FAIS; DHA
Experience: 31+ years
Chief of Thoracic Surgical Oncology, Asian Institute of Oncology
Padmashree award by the President of India in 2014