Spotting the Warning Signs of Lung Cancer

Approximately every 2.3 minutes, someone is diagnosed with lung cancer. As with any illness, early detection is the best way to stop cancer in its tracks. If you’re concerned that you or a loved one has developed lung cancer or you simply want to learn more about detecting the warning signs, keep reading to get our team’s expert advice. 

The physicians at Rockland Thoracic & Vascular Associates specialize in detecting and treating lung cancer and can help you get the best care fast. 

Lung cancer basics

You know that a lung is an extremely important organ. It’s in charge of your respiratory system and makes sure you breathe oxygen in and carbon dioxide out. When you have lung cancer, your lung has developed a crop of uncontrolled, abnormal cells. These cells take over your healthy ones and make it impossible for your lung to do its job properly. 

Cancer begins with an error or mutation in the cell’s DNA. This can be caused simply through the aging process or by other factors like smoking, inhaling asbestos, or being exposed to radon.

Warning signs of lung cancer 

Lung cancer can look and begin differently in different people. Here are some common symptoms and warning signs:

  • Persistent or worsening cough
  • Rust-colored spit or phlegm
  • Severe chest pain when breathing, coughing, or laughing
  • Hoarse voice or shortness of breath
  • Lack or loss of appetite
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Persistent bronchitis or pneumonia
  • Sudden onset of wheezing

These are all serious signs that you may have developed lung cancer. If you’re experiencing one or more of these symptoms, please seek out one of our medical professionals. 

Other circumstances and types of lung cancer bring on a different set of symptoms. Here are a few things to pay attention to:

Pancoast tumors

Pancoast tumors are cancerous tumors found in the upper part of the lungs. These tumors can bring about Horner syndrome, which can cause one of your eyes to droop and make your pupil smaller. You might also notice little or no sweating on the same side of the face. 

Superior vena cava syndrome

Your superior vena cava (SVC) is a large vein that’s responsible for carrying blood from your head and arms down to your heart. This vein passes by the right upper part of your lung and the lymph nodes inside your chest. If you’ve developed cancerous tumors on this part of your lung, it can put an inordinate amount of pressure on your SVC, causing the blood in your vein to back up. Symptoms include:

  • Swelling in the neck, face, arms, and upper chest
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Changes in consciousness

Make an appointment with one of our physicians immediately if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms. 

Paraneoplastic syndromes

Sometimes, the cancer in your lungs produces hormone-like substances that get into your bloodstream and cause problems in other areas of your body. Some examples include blood clots and high levels of calcium in your blood. 

Other problems that could arise include syndrome of inappropriate ant-diuretic hormone (SIADH), which means your kidney is unable to function properly. You might experience fatigue, loss of appetite, muscle weakness or cramps, and nausea or vomiting. 

Cushing syndrome is another possible side effect of lung cancer. This occurs when the cancer cells make ACTH, a hormone that causes your adrenal glands to produce cortisol. This might cause you to gain weight, bruise easily, and feel tired or drowsy. 

Whatever symptoms you’re feeling, it’s best to seek medical attention at the first sign of trouble. Lung cancer can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be with our physicians’ skill and guidance. Call one of our five convenient locations in New York and New Jersey, or schedule an appointment online.