Lung cancer is cancer of the lungs, and it can take on a few forms, ranging from small cell carcinoma to advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), and many variations in between.
Like any type of cancer, it’s essential to catch it early on and start medications and treatments right away for the most optimal outcome, but unfortunately many individuals ignore their symptoms.
Lung Cancer Treatment Options
While there is currently no cure for lung cancer, there are many options for medications to help treat it and assist with symptom management. Medications your doctor may prescribe include Zepzelca, Alecensa, Rybevrant, and ROS1 tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) or ROS1 inhibitor. Certain medications work together, like OPDIVO (nivolumab) combined with YERVOY (ipilimumab), for the most effective outcome.
In addition to medications to help manage symptoms, you likely will also require targeted treatments to directly fight against the cancerous tumors. One may endure therapies such as opdivo and yervoy immunotherapy, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and targeted therapies. These can be mentally and physically exhausting, so it’s helpful to have a support system there to encourage and help you through it, like close friends and family. There are also cancer support groups you can join to talk to people that understand exactly what you’re going through.
Although it is an extremely challenging and scary process, you can feel assured that your doctor will work with you to get the best treatment plan that will meet your needs.
Here are 5 early warning signs of lung cancer that are often overlooked:
1. A cough
A cough can be the result of many things: the flu, seasonal colds, allergies, or even a lactose allergy. That’s why so many people overlook this symptom as nothing to be concerned about; however, if you have a cough that lasts more than 6 weeks, it’s time to get screened for lung cancer. Even if you think you know the cause, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
2. Unexplained weight loss
Cancerous tumors release chemicals that reduce your appetite in addition to increasing your metabolism, both of which result in weight loss. While some individuals might think losing weight is a good thing, if you’re not actively trying to shed a few pounds, this should raise some concern.
Fatigue is a common symptom of many kinds of cancer, but most individuals wouldn’t think of cancer as the cause. Maybe you just traveled and you think it’s jet lag, or you haven’t been sleeping well lately—whatever you think it may be, if your fatigue doesn’t go away with good rest and it leaves you feeling extremely weak and tired, it’s time to get checked. Lung cancer results in the lungs not working properly, and patients can become anemic, both of which result in fatigue or extreme tiredness.
4. Arm/shoulder swelling and pain
Lung cancer is probably the last thing you would think to be the cause if you’re experiencing swelling and/or pain in your arm or shoulder. If the tumor grows in the lungs upper area, it could spread to your ribs, vertebrae, nerves, or blood vessels. This can then result in pain in your shoulder blade, back, and arm—you may also experience numbness or tingling in your hand.
5. Issues with balance
If you feel unsteady or lose your balance often, this can be a sign of lung cancer. Lots of patients become anemic with this kind of cancer, which can cause a loss of balance. Additionally, if the tumor grows near the superior vena cava (SVC), a vein that transports blood from your head and arms back to the heart, it can cause blood to back up if it becomes too big, resulting in dizziness or balance loss.