There are several kinds of lung cancer, most are caused by smoking, occasionally by asbestos. It’s also possible to have metastatic lung cancer, i.e. spread to the lungs from another organ where the cancer began. Some kinds of cancer can be removed (cured) by surgery, others can only be treated temporarily by chemotherapy.
We wonder about lung cancer if a patient (usually a smoker) has:
- a new cough that doesn’t start to improve in a few weeks
- coughs up blood
- has chest pain when they take deep breaths (not a common early symptom)
- new and worsening shortness of breath (not a common early symptom)
We wonder about any cancer if a patient has:
- weight loss
- night sweats
Chest x-rays can usually find lung cancer. If a smoker (or ex-smoker) has symptoms and a normal x-ray, if they’d smoked a lot throughout the years, we’d order a chest CT scan. There are also ways to do low-radiation chest CT scans on such smokers over 55 without symptoms, to find lung cancer before it advances. Ordering periodic chest x-rays to look for it doesn’t help.