Lung cancer is one of the most common types of cancer affecting individuals worldwide. The proportion of this fatal disease is high in those who smoke, but non-smokers are also known to become the victims of lung cancer. Lung cancers occurring in non-smokers are rising in females and the risk factors, symptoms, and survival rate among them differ from those among men. Often, the symptoms of lung cancer surface when the condition reaches an advanced stage.
In general, lung cancer symptoms are more or less the same in all individuals, regardless of gender, but there may be slight differences in the progression of the early lung cancer symptoms in females and males depending on factors such as lifestyle, genetic variations, hormonal differences.
Prevalence of Lung Cancer in Women
There are two main types of lung cancer – small-cell lung cancer (SCLC) and non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Of the two categories, NSCLC is more common, and its sub-type – adenocarcinoma is mostly prevalent in women. Hence, females exhibit early signs of lung cancer associated with adenocarcinoma to a higher extent than males.
Adenocarcinoma begins in the glandular cells that produce substances like mucus located in the outer parts of the lungs. Adenocarcinoma is prevalent in smokers as well as non-smokers. The lung tumour in this type of cancer grows in the periphery of the lungs and can spread to other parts of the body through the bloodstream or lymph system when cancer cells break away from the tumour. There is no clarity on why a higher number of women get diagnosed with lung adenocarcinoma than men. However, factors like genetic mutation, DNA adducts, and hormonal differences, may be attributed to the prevalence.
Symptoms of Lung Cancer in Females
Some of the typical signs and symptoms of lung cancer in females include:
- Chronic Cough
The most common sign of lung cancer is a cough that lasts for more than a few weeks. The cough may be similar to throat congestion and nagging cough resulting from other conditions affecting lung health; these conditions include viral infections, allergies, and coughs. The nature of the cough may be dry or produce phlegm. Whatever the case may be, if the cough persists for more than usual time period, seeking immediate help enables you to get a prompt lung cancer cure.
- Coughing Blood
Besides chronic cough that lasts for weeks, if you spew out blood while coughing, it is concerning. The symptom of coughing blood is also known as haemoptysis. You might be coughing up blood for numerous reasons like infection, nosebleeds, or other conditions. However, it is also one of the early symptoms of lung cancer in females. Hence, just to be sure, consulting the specialist for lungs when you notice the sign is best for prompt diagnosis.
Besides blocking the airways, the development of lung cancer may also press against a nerve called the recurrent laryngeal nerve. This nerve branches from the vagus nerve indirectly through the course of the neck. The recurrent laryngeal nerve is responsible for supplying sensation to the larynx below the vocal cords. Hence, when it gets pressed as an effect of lung cancer, it affects the timber of the voice and leads to hoarseness.
- Respiratory Infections
As the lung tumour grows, it affects the respiratory system adversely over time. The process begins with blocking the airways, an increase of pressure in the lungs, and inflammation in the respiratory tract. As a result, you get affected by infections like bronchitis and pneumonia. If you notice a recurring pattern of such infections and they do not clear up with the consumption of antibiotics, you should consult a specialist for lungs. Doing so enables you to detect cancer and get a lung cancer cure early.
- Shortness of Breath
In the early stages of lung cancer, breathlessness might not be as prominent. You may easily overlook it as a sign of tiredness or something else. Nevertheless, as the disease progresses, you will notice the shortness of breath become glaringly clear. The discomfort will become more and more obvious. You can notice it while engaging in strenuous activities like walking, climbing stairs, and sprinting. As the symptoms intensify, any kind of exertion may trigger shortness of breath.
- Sudden Weight Loss
Unexpected weight loss may seem like a welcome surprise, but if you have not made dietary and physical changes that can explain the weight loss, it is not normal. While the unexplained loss of body weight is not necessarily related to lung tumour, it is one of the symptoms. The reason is an increased usage of energy compared with your intake when you are suffering from cancer. Hence, you can consult a doctor when you lose weight without a valid reason. If the influencing factor is respiratory dysfunction, the doctor may transfer your case to a specialist for lungs.
- Low or non-existent appetite
When tumours spread in a specific area like the respiratory system or any other body part due to lung cancer, the perception of hunger changes in your body. You feel full when you are not, and the result is loss of appetite. This, in turn, leads to other symptoms like nausea, dehydration, neurological imbalance, and stress. Another direct effect is weight loss, fatigue, and susceptibility to infections. Hence, not being able to eat for a long period should be taken seriously.
As a woman, tiredness might be a part of your routine due to the various tasks you take on daily. However, when the fatigue is persistent and unusual, you can associate it with one of the early signs of lung cancer in females. Also, fatigue due to lung cancer is different from regular tiredness. You cannot easily push through it with some sleep and energisers. If the state of tiredness is unusual and constant for a long time, consider evaluating your heart and lung health.
- Chest Pain
In the case of lung cancer like adenocarcinoma, the lung tumour grows around the lungs, which can invade the pleura. Pleura is a thin layer of tissue that covers the outer lines of the lungs and the inner layer of the chest cavity. Hence, when the lung cancer cells push into the pleura, patients experience chest pain. Even if lung cancer develops between the ribs, you may experience sharp pain in the chest. Additionally, you become prone to experiencing pain while coughing, laughing, or breathing deeply.
- Pain in Bones
As lung cancer progresses, it spreads to other body parts through the bloodstream. As a result, if it reaches the bone, you may experience pain in your vertebrae, ribs, or other bones in the body. Pain in the back or hips is also a possibility. In some cases, if the condition weakens bones, fractures are also an after-effect with minimal trauma. However, it is very rare and depends on the progression of your cancer.
As the air passage is constricted when you develop lung cancer, the airflow gets affected. The condition not only causes coughing and breathlessness but is also accompanied by a whistling noise. The noise is known as wheezing. Although wheezing is attributed to respiratory issues like asthma, it is also a result of a developing lung tumour. Hence, if you experience wheezing, you should talk to your doctor. They may recommend a lung cancer cure if they detect the link to the tumour.
Symptoms of Lung Cancer in Female FAQs:
What is the cure for lung cancer symptoms?
If you notice symptoms of lung cancer and get an early diagnosis, a lung cancer cure is possible depending on the severity of your condition. Some treatments available for the same are:
• Surgical removal of the tumour and the surrounding tissue from the lung
• Chemotherapy for lung cancer that uses drugs to kill cancer cells
• Radiation therapy involving the usage of high-energy rays to kill cancer cells
• Immunotherapy that stimulates the body’s immunity for effective lung cancer cure
• Targeted therapy, which focuses on specific genes and proteins involved in cancer growth
How to care for women showing symptoms of lung tumours?
If you notice the symptoms of lung cancer in a female of your family, the best way to care for them is being with them through every stage. Start by helping them get an early diagnosis from a qualified specialist for lungs. If the symptoms are in fact associated with lung cancer, understand the suggested treatment approach. Lastly, support the patient while they cope with the disease to make living with it and eventually overcoming it easy.
When is the right time to see a specialist for lung cancer?
If you notice multiple symptoms of lung cancer persisting for longer than usual, you must visit a specialist. In addition, if such signs are not related to any other condition, you should consider consulting your doctor. They could be your family doctor if you are unsure of what the symptoms mean. They may ask you a few questions and analyse your physical condition to understand the symptoms. If they suspect the presence of lung cancer, you can check with a specialist who can suggest a lung cancer cure.
For how long do doctors recommend chemotherapy for lung cancer?
Chemotherapy for lung cancer takes place in cycles. The duration of the cycle may range from 3 to 4 weeks or go up to a few months depending on your condition. The length of the chemotherapy also depends on the kind of drugs, how well it is working for you, and the side-effects you may be experiencing.
What to expect while consulting a specialist for lung cancer?
If your general practitioner suspects the relation of your symptoms to lung cancer, they may suggest consulting a lung specialist. During the consultation, the doctor will ask you to explain your symptoms in detail, check your medical records (if any), and run some diagnostic tests to detect the presence of a lung tumour.