Many people with lung cancer, which accounts for 6.9 percent of all new cancer cases in India, don't have symptoms until the disease is in its later stages. Some people, unfortunately, go misdiagnosed for a long time because their symptoms are like other diagnoses such as tuberculosis, pneumonia, allergies or a cold. Some symptoms of lung cancer may not even seem to be related to the lungs or breathing.
According to Globocan 2018 data which includes estimates of incidence, mortality rate and prevalence of 36 types of cancers in 185 countries of the world, lung cancer is the second most common cancer in Indian men with 48,698 new cases in the year 2018, and 19,097 cases among females.
"If you suffer from any of the symptoms mentioned below, have a high index of suspicion, then be persistent with your doctor. You know your body best and being aware can save your life," says Dr Kamran Ali, Associate Consultant, Thoracic Surgery and Thoracic Surgical Oncology, Fortis Hospital, Vasant Kunj
1) A cough that does not go away or gets worse
Be on alert for a new cough that does subside; especially a persistent cough that lingers. This can be a symptom of lung cancer. Do not dismiss a stubborn cough, whether it’s dry or productive.
2) Coughing up blood or rust coloured spit or phlegm
The presence of blood in phlegm is an alarming symptom. Whether it’s a streak of blood giving your spit a rust colour or frank blood when you cough, it should not be taken lightly.
3) Shortness of breath
If you feel winded or short of breath or you find that climbing your usual flight of stairs at home or office is leaving you gasping for air, have your doctor evaluate you. A lung cancer can produce breathlessness by blocking or narrowing the airway, or by producing fluid outside your lungs making them drown in that fluid.
4) Chest pain
"Chest pain that gets worse with deep breathing, coughing or laughing should also ring a bell. A lung tumor by virtue of its mass or by invasion into the surrounding chest wall or ribs can cause pain in the chest area or even in the back region," adds Dr Ali.
5) Drop in weight and loss of appetite
An unexplained loss of weight and appetite can be a clue to change in your body physiology. Watch out for any such changes especially if you have not been trying to shed any pounds.
6) Hoarseness of voice
Any sudden significant change in your voice noted by you or brought to your attention by someone else is not be ignored. If your voice suddenly sounds hoarse, or raspier, get yourself evaluated. Hoarseness seen in lung cancer is because of the tumor or lymph nodes affecting the nerve that controls the larynx, or voice box.
7) Recurrent chest infections
If, off late, you have been suffering from frequent respiratory tract infections like pneumonia or bronchitis, be persistent with your doctor to evaluate you more thoroughly. A non-resolving pneumonia is sometimes known to harbor an underlying cancer.
8) Feeling tired or weak
A general feeling of lethargy or weakness without physical activity is sometimes an indirect pointer towards an underlying lung cancer or some other cancer.