Early signs of lung cancer
Lung cancer is one of the main causes of mortality due to neoplasia, both for men and women. His prevalence is only exceeded by prostate cancer and breast cancer, but lung cancer mortality is not yet outweighed by any other malignancy. For example, in the United States, 160,440 lung cancer deaths were predicted in 2004 compared with 127,210 deaths predicted by colorectal, breast and prostate cancer combined.
Approximately one fourth of all patients have no suggestive symptoms when the diagnosis of lung cancer is established. In these cases, cancer is diagnosed by performing radiographs or computed tomography (CT) for other health problems.
The rest of the patients (3/4) have certain symptoms, although some are nonspecific, causing them to contact the doctor. Symptoms may be the consequence of the primary pulmonary tumor, which may cause local compression or may spread through metastasis to the rest of the body. In some cases, the primary tumor does not have pulmonary localization, but it appears secondary, which is why the clinical picture can vary greatly from patient to patient.
Symptoms of lung cancer are classified as primary tumor-induced symptoms induced by locoregional invasion, occurring through metastasis or due to abnormal ectopic hormonal production.
Symptoms of primary lung cancer include:
- Cough: suddenly appeared in a chronic smoker, or a cough that changes its main features (if it becomes more violent, more agonizing, more frequent if it changes its tone). A cough that does not disappear over time must be a sign of an alarm for the patient and he should go to the doctor to investigate the origin;
- Hemoptysis (sanguine bleeding or haemorrhagic frank) occurs in a significant percentage of patients and may be the very first symptom or one that, by its spectacularity, sends the patient to a specialist. The amount of expectorated blood is not very important, so even if there are only bloodstains, the patient needs to be alarmed;
- Wheezing occurs as a result of tumor obstruction or may occur as a result of interstitial inflammation that accompanies the development of neoplasia;
- Chest pain occurs in 1/4 of the sick. Pain is often chronic, deaf and diffuse, due to the damage to the structures around the lungs by tumor invasion;
- Dyspnea can be caused by the tumor itself, which through its dimensions reaches a compression on the structures of the respiratory tree, but it can also be caused by the pleural effusion or the extension and invasion of the pulmonary parenchyma, its functionality being compromised;
- Repeated pulmonary and upper respiratory tract infections, such as pneumonia or bronchitis, may be a signaling sign of lung cancer. A relatively high percentage of adenocarcinomas are peripherally located, which translates clinically with the appearance of, besides the reported symptoms, pleural effusion and very intense chest pain due to the neoplastic infiltration of the pleura and the chest wall.