Dr. Brian Lawenda, radiation oncologist in Las Vegas, knows all too well that lung cancer can be difficult to spot early because of lack of symptoms. In the story below, he speaks with the Las Vegas Review-Journal on how to identify common symptoms and explains it's always important to talk to your doctor.
By Linda J. Simpson
Lung cancer is a great pretender. It can hide quietly for years behind symptoms that are easily mistaken for minor ailments or exhibit no symptoms at all. By the time the majority of people go to the doctor with complaints, lung cancer has already progressed into the advanced stages of the disease, which decreases their chances of survival.
"I think it's important that patients should be explaining to their doctors any new symptoms that they have," said Brian Lawenda, board certified radiation oncologist and clinical director of 21st Century Oncology. "Either new shortness of breath — new cough, new sputum that has blood in it, for example — any of those symptoms or weight loss that's unexplained are things that should definitely be brought up with their primary care doctor," he said.
Lawenda estimates in his practice that only 10 percent of the lung cancer patients are diagnosed in the earliest stage of the disease. Oftentimes the cancer is found by accident while being tested for other medical conditions such as a blocked artery.
"Lung cancers, like many other cancers, take many years if not decades to develop and so you could have a small nodule that could be sitting in the lungs for many years without any symptoms going on until at some point when the tumor gets large enough to finally cause symptoms. That's not uncommon," Lawenda said.
According to the American Cancer Society, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women in the U.S. Each year, more people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast and prostate cancers combined.
Click here to read the full story on the Las Vegas Review-Journal website.