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This World Lung Cancer Day, get yourself checked out—even if you don’t smoke

Lung Cancer is commonly associated with people who smoke, but the reality is not everyone who smokes gets cancer.

August 1 is World Lung Cancer Day. According to the American Cancer Society, lung cancer is the second most common cancer in both men and women (not counting skin cancer) and is by far the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women. Each year, more people die of lung cancer than colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined.

Some people with early lung cancer have symptoms, but most lung cancers do not cause any symptoms until they have already spread. “If you talk to your provider when you first notice symptoms, your cancer might be diagnosed at an earlier stage when treatment is more likely to be effective,” says Dr. Christopher Peterson, Aspirus Medical Oncologist. “In addition, even if you do not have symptoms, you should discuss your history of smoking with your provider.”

The most common symptoms of lung cancer are:

  • A cough that does not go away or gets worse.
  • Coughing up blood or rust-colored sputum (spit or phlegm)
  • Chest pain that is often worse with deep breathing, coughing, or laughing
  • Hoarseness
  • Weight loss and loss of appetite
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling tired or weak
  • Infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia that don’t go away or keep coming back
  • New onset of wheezing

If lung cancer spreads to distant organs, it may cause:

  • 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 or spinal cord
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice), from cancer spread to the liver
  • Lumps near the surface of the body, due to cancer spreading to the skin or to lymph nodes (collections of immune system cells), such as those in the neck or above the collarbone

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.

Aspirus Cancer Care will be holding a screening clinic for lung cancer on Friday, Sept. 9, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the Aspirus Wausau campus. For more information, visit aspirus.org/classes-events/lung-cancer-screening.