What does your cough mean? | Lung Cancer Awareness 2018
Everyone gets a cough now and again. We desperately try and hold it in during meetings for a few days before thankfully, to the relief of everyone around us, our cough goes away. However sometimes the cough lingers on for more than three weeks. The cough becomes like your friend’s friend who still hasn’t got the hint that a party is over long after everyone else has left… There can be many explanations for your prolonged cough. However, it could be an early symptom of lung cancer.
As well as a persistent cough for three weeks or more, other common symptoms include:
Blood In Your Cough
This is a big red flag. You should contact your GP as soon as you see any blood in your cough, even if there are only a few specks of blood visible. Alerting your practitioner as early as possible will let you know exactly what is causing this haemoptysis and treat it without delay. If the blood production is being caused by a tumour in your lung, this early diagnosis could save your life. It can be extremely worrying to see blood when you cough. It is important to remain calm and act on it, as the sooner you see your doctor, the sooner you will be able to get better.
A Long-Standing Cough That Gets Worse
It’s a beautiful spring day, the sun is shining but you’re coughing. A few days later, you’re coughing turns to chronic wheezing. Then a few days after that, you’re beginning to redefine looking under the weather. Rather than deciding to make the best of it and struggle through your new, hoarsened existence, it is vital that you make a doctor’s appointment as soon as possible. Ignoring these symptoms could leave you forced into combat against hugely aggressive cancerous tumours in multiple organs, very, very quickly. Speed is everything here. Attempting to ignore what your body is telling you to look tough in front of your mates, can leave your mates facing the rest of their lives without you.
This is perhaps one of the worst symptoms of lung cancer, as it can be incredibly easy for people to misconstrue. Breathlessness could be perceived as a consequence of an individual’s general lack of fitness. In many cases, this could not be further from the truth. If you experience breathlessness frequently it is absolutely vital that you do not dismiss your symptoms as a product of exercise (or lack of it). You should see a doctor immediately. Lung cancer spreads exceptionally quickly, and even the earliest symptoms are experienced when at least one tumour is already growing. Therefore it really is a race against the clock to flag up persistent breathlessness to your GP.
Ache Or Pain When Breathing Or Coughing Or Swallowing
Aches and pains like these can so often be dismissed as the consequence of a sore throat, or the weather, or a bug that’s been going around. If you persistently experience pain when breathing, coughing, or eating, these could all be symptoms of lung cancer. Don’t dismiss these symptoms as normal because they aren’t.
Continuing Chest Infections
Everyone gets chest infections from time to time. However, if you can’t get rid of your chest infection, even after visiting the GP and taking a course of antibiotics, your chest infections could in fact be a symptom of lung cancer. In this case, getting a specialist opinion on your infection, even if it means visiting a private practice, could help you gain crucial time through a faster cancer diagnosis.
Pain In Your Chest Or Shoulder
Shoulder pain is one of the rarer causes of lung cancer and could be attributed to so many other things. However, if it doesn’t go away after a few weeks, it is important that you make an appointment to see your doctor, as this prolonged pain could be something far more sinister. Any prolonged experience of chest pain should immediately precede a visit to the GP.
By spotting these symptoms as early as possible you can make sure that if you are diagnosed with lung cancer, then you can begin treatment when the cancer is in its earliest stage, and therefore, at its easiest to destroy.
Sometimes when people think of lung cancer, images of dying smokers immediately come to mind. These images are misconceived on two fronts. Firstly, anyone can develop lung cancer, including those who have never actively or passively smoked a cigarette.
Secondly, if caught early, lung cancer does not have to be a death sentence. Far from it, people can be diagnosed with lung cancer, recover, and then return to enjoying the active lives they were living before being diagnosed with the disease. A brilliant example of this recovery is found in the case of James Brokenshire, who resigned from his post as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in January 2018, having been diagnosed with the disease. As his lung cancer was caught early, it was highly treatable and Brokenshire returned to Government as Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary in April of this year.
If you’re suffering from any of the symptoms discussed, book a visit to see your GP.
Dr Brian O’Connor has over 30 years experience in caring for adult patients with lung disease.