Early Signs You Have Lung Cancer, Like Dustin Diamond Did
Dustin Diamond, best known for his role as Samuel "Screech" Powers on the hit NBC sitcom Saved by the Bell, died at the age of 44 on Monday, according to his representative. The actor was first diagnosed with stage 4 small cell carcinoma—a type of lung cancer—in January after experiencing pain all over his body. As with any type of cancer, early detection is a key factor when it comes to chances of survival. So what are the signs and symptoms to look out for? The most common symptoms of lung cancer, according to the American Cancer Society, are the following. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.
A Cough That Does Not Go Away or Gets Worse
"The early symptoms of lung cancer may be a slight cough or shortness of breath, depending on which part of the lung is affected," according to the Cancer Center. "As the cancer develops, these symptoms may become more severe or intense. Like many other types of cancer, lung cancer may also cause systemic symptoms, like loss of appetite or general fatigue."
Coughing up Blood
…or rust-colored sputum (spit or phlegm). This can happen with COVID patients, too. "What happens is, airway inflammation sometimes leads to a very fragile lining of the airways, and those small blood vessels, or capillaries, might be affected, causing blood to come out," Dr. Albert Rizzo, the chief medical officer of the American Lung Association, told the Today Show.
This chest pain "is often worse with deep breathing, coughing, or laughing," according to the American Cancer Society.
"Has your voice changed? Does it sound raspy? Are you hoarse? Has anyone pointed out that your voice sounds high-pitched? Vocal cords create sound by vibrating open and closed, but lung cancer can affect the nerve that triggers this movement," according to the Lung Cancer Association of America. "These changes in your voice could indicate lung cancer. But hoarseness or any changes in your voice are also commonly associated with many other conditions, such as laryngitis. You should make an appointment with your doctor to have any changes in your voice checked out."
Loss of Appetite
"If you're living with lung cancer, you may, at times, experience a loss of appetite, as well as difficulty with chewing and swallowing," according to the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation. "This is very common, with up to 9 out 10 people with advanced cancer losing their appetite to some extent. Certain treatments can also have an impact on your appetite."
Unexplained Weight Loss
"Most people with cancer will lose weight at some point. When you lose weight for no known reason, it's called an unexplained weight loss," says the American Cancer Society. "An unexplained weight loss of 10 pounds or more may be the first sign of cancer. This happens most often with cancers of the pancreas, stomach, esophagus (swallowing tube), or lung."
Shortness of Breath
"What causes shortness of breath with lung cancer?" asks Johns Hopkins. "Sometimes, lung cancer tumors grow in a way that blocks airways, put pressure on lungs or cause inflammation in the respiratory system. All of these situations can prevent your respiratory system from working properly, leading to problems getting in enough air."
Feeling Tired or Weak
"In some people, fatigue is an early symptom of the presence of lung cancer. It is experienced by nearly all patients who undergo treatment for cancer: up to 90% of patients treated with radiation therapy and up to 80% of patients treated with chemotherapy report experiencing fatigue," reports LungCancer.net.
….such as bronchitis and pneumonia that don't go away or keep coming back," says the American Cancer Society, can be signs of lung cancer.
New Onset of Wheezing
"Wheezing may be caused by pulmonary (related to the lungs) or cardiac (related to the heart) factors. Wheezing is a common cause of dyspnea, which is shortness of breath or difficulty breathing," says LungCancer.net.
These Symptoms May Appear Only After the Cancer Has Spread
According to the American Cancer Society, unfortunately the majority of lung cancers do not cause any symptoms until they have spread, which was likely the case with Diamond. However, if you do experience any symptoms, the sooner you go to your doctor, the more likely your cancer will be diagnosed and an earlier stage and your treatment is more likely to be effective.
"Most of these symptoms are more likely to be caused by something other than lung cancer. Still, if you have any of these problems, it's important to see your doctor right away so the cause can be found and treated, if needed," they explain. Keep reading for other signs that signify it has spread.
Other Signs That Signify Lung Cancer Has Spread
Additionally, there are other signs to look out for that could signify lung cancer that has spread to other parts of the body:
- Bone pain (like pain in the back or hips)
- Nervous system changes (such as headache, weakness or numbness of an arm or leg, dizziness, balance problems, or seizures), from cancer spread to the brain
- Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice), from cancer spread to the liver
- Swelling of lymph nodes (collection of immune system cells) such as those in the neck or above the collarbone
Again, if you experience any of these symptoms, it is likely something other than cancer. However, being proactive about your health and ruling it out as a possibility is the smart thing to do. "Some people, unfortunately, go misdiagnosed for a long time because their symptoms are similar to other diagnoses such as pneumonia, allergies or a cold," adds the American Lung Association. "If you feel that something is wrong, be persistent with your doctor. You know your body best and being persistent could save your life." So remember that, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.