Lung cancer is amongst the most prevalent types of cancer in the world. In the United States, lung cancer contributes to more annual deaths than ovarian, prostate, and breast cancer combined, making it the primary cause of cancer-related deaths in the country.
That can be alarming for many, but the good news is that lung cancer is better understood than other forms of cancer, at least in terms of its risk factors. And if you can catch it early, then that means you can get a headstart on conventional or holistic treatment for lung cancer. While a professional diagnosis is the best way to go, there are some potential ways to detect lung cancer at home. How do you check for lung cancer on your own? Read on below to find out.
Looking for Common Signs and Symptoms
Staying cognizant of common signs and symptoms is the best way to discover early-stage lung cancer. Unfortunately, everyone is different. Some individuals with lung cancer may not show any symptoms at all until the spread of lung cancer or when the cancer has advanced to a more severe stage. Some of the most common signs of lung cancer include:
- A sudden, persistent cough – Coughing is a regular reflex that is most often linked to the cold and flu. Even after your cold has gone away, you may continue coughing for a few weeks if your lungs are sensitive. However, if you have a sudden cough that won’t go away and isn’t noticeably tied to a recent bacterial or viral infection, you may want to consult your doctor.
- Shortness of breath – Shortness of breath can come as a result of a tumor pressing against an airway in your lungs, making it difficult to breathe properly. Any shortness of breath that doesn’t come from physical strain or exercise should be a cause for concern.
- Chest pain – Chest pains can come from tumors that grow and press against the chest wall or cause swelling in the lymph nodes. This can also present as sudden aches in the back or shoulders.
- Coughing up blood – Perhaps the most alarming of these early symptoms, coughing up blood or rusty phlegm of any quantity could be a sign of lung cancer. This is usually a sign that the tumor is growing close to one of the main pathways in the lungs, known as the bronchi.
While none of these are specific to lung cancer alone, they could point to lung cancer when taken together. Furthermore, even if you don’t have lung cancer, you should absolutely see your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms as they could point to serious issues that aren’t related to cancer.
Understanding the Risk Factors
One of the best ways to detect lung cancer is by understanding if you are at a higher risk of it. There are risk factors and genetic causes of lung cancer to be aware of. While the disease can affect just about anyone, doctors do know that smoking is the most prevalent lung cancer risk factor. Smoking is responsible for an estimated 80 percent of deaths from lung cancer, a number that increases with certain types of lung cancer like small cell lung cancer. Smokers have a much greater chance of getting lung cancer than non-smokers. This risk is hard to pinpoint exactly as the length of time that you’re smoking and the greater the number of cigarettes that you smoke per day can escalate the risk.
Smoke of any kind, whether it’s from a cigarette or a fireplace, contains toxic chemicals as a product of materials combusting. When inhaled, these chemicals can hurt the lining in your lungs. The good news is that your lungs are surprisingly resilient and capable of healing themselves. However, repeated exposure to smoke can cause continuous damage that, over time, your lungs can’t keep up with. That constant damage can result in cells growing abnormally and eventually becoming cancer cells, thus resulting in you developing lung cancer.
Cigarettes contribute to that constant exposure thanks to the addictive nature of nicotine, on top of the chemicals added to the average cigarette. You don’t even need to be smoking to be at risk for lung cancer. Secondhand cigarette smoke can damage lung tissue and contributes to about 7,000 lung cancer deaths per year.
If you have a history of heavy smoking or of being around heavy smokers, you may want to consult your doctor for lung cancer. Staying away from smoking will be a huge step towards lung cancer prevention.
The fact is, there are no simple ways to detect lung cancer on your own. Going through tests and physical examinations during a visit to the doctor is the only way to truly diagnose lung cancer. With early detection, you’ll be able to figure out the best lung cancer treatment plan for you.