Lung Cancer Signs and Symptoms

Lung Cancer and Women
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Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States causing more deaths than breast, prostate, and colorectal cancer combined. Lung cancer has caused more deaths in women than breast cancer every year since 1987—sixty-five thousand women are expected to die of lung cancer in 1999.

Women now account for half of all new cases of lung cancer. Between 1974 and 1994, lung cancer deaths increased 150% in women, while men experienced only a 20% increase.

Why are so many women dying of lung cancer? Research suggests that while women may smoke less cigarettes and inhale less of the cigarettes that they do smoke, women are 1.5 times more likely to get lung cancer than men. Although further research is needed, scientists believe the difference may be genetically linked.

Symptoms and Warning Signs

Unfortunately, the symptoms of lung cancer can take many years to develop which often leads to diagnosis at an advanced stage of this disease. Some of the symptoms that may occur include:

  • Smoker's cough that persists or becomes intense.
  • Persistent chest, shoulder, or back pain unrelated to pain from coughing.
  • Increase in volume of sputum.
  • Wheezing.
  • Nonsmoker's cough that persists for more than 2 weeks.
  • Change in color of sputum.
  • Blood in sputum.
  • Repeated episodes of pneumonia or bronchitis.

Other symptoms that can be related to late-stage lung cancer can include:

  • Fatigue.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Headache, bone pain, aching joints.
  • Bone fractures not related to accidental injury.
  • Neurologic symptoms, such as unsteady gait and/or episodic memory loss.
  • Neck and facial swelling.
  • Unexplained weight loss.

Other signs and symptoms may be caused by the spread of lung cancer to other parts of the body, including headaches, weakness, pain, bone fractures, bleeding, or blood clots.

If you or someone you know experiences any of these signs or symptoms consult a physician immediately. Early detection can mean the difference between life and death for lung cancer patients--the 5-year survival rate for patients whose cancer is found while it is still localized (affecting only the lungs) is almost fifty percent.

If your physician is suspicious of your symptoms he can order screening tools such as CT scans and PET scans which can detect lung cancer earlier than conventional X-rays and increase your chance of survival.

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Explore the unique ways that smoking affects women's health--90% of all cases of lung cancer are smoking-related.

Lung Cancer Information-a comprehensive library for patients and professionals.

Smoking Cessation- Christine Rowley provides information and community support for those trying to quit smoking.

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