‘I’m a lung doctor – here’s a warning sign of lung cancer most people don’t know about’

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Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide. Most cases are associated with smoking, but not all of them.

Dr Mike Hansen, a lung doctor for almost 10 years, has seen thousands of people with lung cancer.

In a video posted to his YouTube channel, which has more than one million subscribers, Dr Hansen said: “There are actually different types of lung cancer, one in particular is a type that non smokers can get, and that’s something called lung adenocarcinoma.”

With his experience, Dr Hansen went on to list the warning signs of lung cancer to look out for. Understanding these symptoms is vital and potentially life saving, he said.

“Warning sign number one is an interesting one that most people don’t think about or know about,” said Dr Hansen, “And that’s changes in the fingernails”.

Finger clubbing

Lung cancer can cause clubbing of the fingernails, which is enlargement in and around the fingertips. Dr Hansen said: “It’s certainly not the only thing that can cause clubbing of the fingernails, but if you notice this change it’s definitely something that needs to be looked at and a potential sign of lung cancer.”

Persistent cough

A cough associated with a cold or a respiratory infection subsides in a week or two, but a persistent cough that doesn’t go away could be a symptom of lung cancer.

Dr Hansen said: “Pay attention to whether your chronic cough is constant, or intermittent, if it’s dry or if it’s producing mucus, or if it has changed in any way.

“Also, if you are coughing blood, that’s a big one. Because even if you’re coughing up blood in small amounts, that can be a sign of lung cancer, and that would warrant immediate medical attention.”

Shortness of breath

Many illnesses can present with shortness of breath, which is a red flag symptom that requires medical attention. But Dr Hansen added: “Experiencing shortness of breath or becoming easily winded could also be a potential warning sign of lung cancer, especially if that tumour is blocking an airway – if it’s causing a narrowing airway, that’s something that could be causing shortness of breath.

“Or, if that tumour is actually causing fluid build up outside of the lung, known as pleural effusion, that could do it as well. “

Chest pain

Lung cancer can cause chest pain, especially if it metastasizes to the chest wall, or if it causes swollen lymph nodes within the chest.

Dr Hansen said: “The pain can feel sharp, or could feel like a constant pain, it could be a dull pain, or could come and go meaning it’s intermittent.

“So chest pain that worsens with deep breathing, or coughing, or even laughing, or sneezing, that could be a sign of lung cancer.”

Wheezing

When air passages of the lungs become either blocked or constricted or inflamed, you could experience wheezing or a whistling type of sound when you breathe, particularly on the exhale.

Dr Hansen explained: “While wheezing can be associated with numerous conditions such as asthma or COD, it can also be a sign of lung cancer.”

Recurring chest infections

Recurring chest infections, like bronchitis or pneumonia, can be a sign of lung cancer. Dr Hansen said: “While healthy people can suffer from these conditions, a recurrent pattern might indicate undying issues like a kung tumour that’s blocking the airways, and therefore predisposing you to infections.”

Fatigue

Lung cancer can also contribute to fatigue, particularly if that cancer is advanced. Dr Hansen said: “Fatigue linked to cancer is usually more intense compared to the typical run of the mill feeling tired. With cancer fatigue it does not improve with rest.”

Hoarse voice

If someone has a hoarse voice that doesn’t go away or a significant change in their voice, that could be a sign of lung cancer, and this can actually result from a tumour that presses on a nerve that controls the larynx, the voice box, called the recurrent laryngeal nerve, said Dr Hansen.

Difficulty swallowing

Lung cancer can sometimes cause difficulty swallowing, often accompanied by pain. Dr Hansen explained: “This happens if a tumour is pressing on the oesophagus, which is the muscular tube that connects from the throat down to the stomach. If that cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, these swollen lymph nodes end up pressing against the oesophagus.”

Decreased appetite

Most cancers decrease appetite and therefore have an unexplained weight loss in that person of 10lbs or more, which could be the first sign of cancer. “Lung cancer is no exception,” said Dr Hansen.

If you think you have symptoms of lung cancer, speak to your GP.

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