Lung cancer—not breast or uterine or ovarian cancer—claims more women’s lives every year than any other type of cancer. One of the reasons is that there are so few early signs of lung cancer—and there’s no proven screening test for detecting the disease in its early stages. So the majority of patients are diagnosed once the cancer is advanced and has spread elsewhere in the body. Fortunately, it is now recommended that people at a high-risk for lung cancer (like current and former smokers) get a low-dose CT scan to screen for the cancer, according to the American Lung Association. You can learn more about that here.
Once lung cancer has advanced, it usually causes more noticeable symptoms such as back pain, headaches, weight loss, and fatigue. Bone pain is also common, because that’s where lung cancer tends to spread first, Andrea McKee, M.D., chairperson of radiation oncology at the Lahey Hospital and Medical Center Sophia Gordon Cancer Center in Burlington, Massachusetts, tells SELF. McKee also serves on the Lung Association’s Lung Cancer Expert Medical Advisory Panel and works with their LUNG FORCE initiative to help raise awareness and educate women about lung cancer.
Although the majority of people diagnosed with lung cancer don’t experience obvious symptoms in its early stages before it spreads, some people may present with these subtle early signs of lung cancer. However, remember that these symptoms may be associated with many conditions and are only rarely a sign of lung cancer. Still, it’s important to be aware of any unexplained changes to your breathing.
1. A new, chronic cough.
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