Lung cancer is on the rise among non-smokers too. Do you know how to spot the symptoms?
While lung cancer typically affects long-time smokers, the number of non-smokers being diagnosed with lung cancer is on the rise. In fact, 20% of people who die of lung cancer have never smoked. Moreover, lung cancer in people who have never smoked seems to affect a younger population.
Experts are still trying to figure out why exactly, but it’s possible that potential causes are high levels of radon in homes (which can easily go unnoticed), exposure to passive smoking, and family history. In addition, heavy air pollution, as well as carcinogenic substances such as asbestos, can also be to blame.
Screening is not an option for non-smokers
Unfortunately, there is no easy way to identify the disease in non-smokers. Doctors can screen for lung cancer using a low-dose CT scan. But testing is reserved for people who are known to be at high risk. Few high-risk people seem to benefit from screening. Without screening, it is difficult to detect lung cancer at an early stage. By the time most people experience symptoms worrisome enough to warrant a call to their doctor, the cancer may have reached an advanced stage.
Can you spot the early symptoms of lung cancer?
With lung cancer on the rise in people who don’t seem to have any risk factors for the disease, it’s important to pay attention to troubling symptoms and bring them to the attention of a doctor.
Here are some warning signs to watch out for
shortness of breath
Shortness of breath is a symptom of lung cancer. If you are an active person who can no longer climb a few flights of stairs without stopping for a breath, this is an unusual and concerning symptom.
A racing heart
For example, among young people who end up being diagnosed were usually active people. They’re the type to run an eight kilometer race, and now they feel their hearts racing as they walk to their car in the parking lot. A racing heart during minimal activity may be the first warning sign that something is going on.
It is common to catch a cold or the flu, especially in winter. And the cough may persist longer than expected (on average 18 days). However, a dry, persistent, throbbing cough that has lasted for four to six weeks or more may indicate that you need an x-ray to check your lungs.
Cough up blood
This is never normal, and it requires urgent evaluation. The causes can range from lung cancer to bronchitis, to a viral or bacterial infection.
Weight loss, fever, night sweats
Weight loss (without dieting), fevers not related to an illness, or profuse night sweats are all symptoms that would prompt you to be evaluated for hidden cancer.