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Lung and Colorectal Cancer Now Cause the Most Deaths. Here's What to Watch For

The American Cancer Society issued cancer projections for 2023.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

A new report by the American Cancer Society finds that lung and colorectal cancers cause the most deaths of any cancer, and the trend is likely to continue in 2023.

Overall, the rate of cancer deaths has dropped 33 percent — nearly 3.8 million lives — since 1991, the society reports. But the society projects nearly 2 million new cancer cases and more than 600,000 U.S. deaths for this year.

Here's what to look for to avoid becoming one of the people to succumb to lung or colorectal cancer.


Lung Cancer Symptoms

no smoking sign

You have a much higher chance of developing lung cancer if you smoke.

Beyond that, common symptoms include the following: A persistent cough that worsens, chest pain, wheezing or an inability to breathe, coughing up blood or chronic fatigue.

Lung cancer can also lead to recurrent infections such as bronchitis or pneumonia.

You should consult a doctor if this describes you.


Other Lung Cancer Signs

Stressed unhappy woman touching forehead, suffering from strong headache or chronic migraine

Once lung cancer spreads to the rest of the body, it can cause symptoms elsewhere.

These include pain in the back or hip bones; neurological symptoms such as dizziness, weakness or numbness; jaundice of the skin or the whites of the eyes; or lymph node swelling.


Lung Cancer Syndromes


Lung cancer can lead to several other syndromes that have characteristics of their own.

They include Horner syndrome, which involves tumors in the upper part of the lung and can affect nerves of the face or eye. It manifests as drooping eyelids, small pupils and even shoulder pain.

Superior vena cava syndrome involves tumors of the large blood vessel that connects the heart with the head and arms. It can lead to swelling or edema of the upper body, including the face, as well as other neurological symptoms.

There are several other syndromes linked to lung cancer that your doctor can explain to you.


Colorectal Cancer Screening

Doctor gastroenterologist with probe to perform gastroscopy and colonoscopy

Colorectal cancer can go undiagnosed well before symptoms appear. The federal government recommends early screening to catch it before symptoms appear.

It suggests that adults from 45 to 75 get screened. Above 75, you should discuss screening with your doctor.

Screening can include stool tests either in your doctor's office or through a home test once every three years.

In-office tests can include flexible sigmoidoscopy, in which a doctor inserts a lighted tube into the rectum to check for polyps or cancer in the lower third of the colon, and full colonoscopy, which uses a longer tube to check the entire colon.

Such tests are recommended once every five or 10 years, depending on whether stool tests are conducted in intervening years. Ask your doctor when and how frequently you should get screened.


Colorectal Cancer Symptoms

Woman holding model of human intestines in front of body.

Once colorectal cancer symptoms occur, they can include the following: a change in bowel habits, including diarrhea or constipation; rectal bleeding or blood in the stool; pain or cramps in the abdomen; or unintended weight loss.

Symptoms can also include a feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that doesn't go away even after one. Another common symptom is a low red blood cell count. 

If you have any of these symptoms, you should consult your doctor.

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