Can lung cancer be found early?

By the American Cancer Society

Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in both men and women, not counting skin cancer. In men, prostate cancer is more common, while in women breast cancer is more common. Lung cancer accounts for about 13 percent of all new cancers.

The American Cancer Society’s estimates for lung cancer in the United States for 2014 are:

  •  About 224,210 new cases of lung cancer (116,000 in men and 108,210 in women)
  •  An estimated 159,260 deaths from lung cancer (86,930 in men and 72,330 among women), accounting for about 27 percent of all cancer deaths

Lung cancer is by far the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women. Each year, more people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast and prostate cancers combined.

Lung cancer mainly occurs in older people. About 2 out of 3 people diagnosed with lung cancer are 65 or older; fewer than 2 percent of all cases are found in people younger than 45. The average age at the time of diagnosis is about 70.

Overall, the chance that a man will develop lung cancer in his lifetime is about 1 in 13; for a woman, the risk is about 1 in 16. These numbers include both smokers and non-smokers. For smokers the risk is much higher, while for nonsmokers the risk is lower.

Most lung cancers do not cause any symptoms until they have spread too far to be cured, but symptoms do occur in some people with early lung cancer. If you go to your doctor when you first notice symptoms, your cancer might be diagnosed at an earlier stage, when treatment is more likely to be effective. The most common symptoms of lung cancer are:

  • A cough that does not go away or gets worse
  • Chest pain that is often worse with deep breathing, coughing or laughing
  • Hoarseness
  • Weight loss and loss of appetite
  • Coughing up blood or rust-colored sputum (spit or phlegm)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling tired or weak
  • Infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia that don’t go away or keep coming back
  •   New onset of wheezing

If lung cancer spreads to distant organs, it may cause:

  • Bone pain (like pain in the back or hips)
  • Nervous system changes (such as headache, weakness or numbness of an arm or leg, dizziness, balance problems, or seizures)
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
  • Lumps near the surface of the body, due to cancer spreading to the skin or to lymph nodes (collections of immune system cells) in the neck or above the collarbone

Most of the symptoms listed above are more likely to be caused by conditions other than lung cancer. Still, if you have any of these problems, it’s important to see your doctor right away so the cause can be found and treated, if needed.

 

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