How do I know if I have Lung Cancer?

How do I know if I have lung cancer? How would I know? These were the question my mom asked me many years ago. I knew that she was trying to be brave, and just hint that she was gathering information, while at the same time she was a little scared.

Just the idea of lung cancer is very scary

So first, take a moment to just breathe in and out, even if you’re having trouble breathing, or you’re coughing. Take a moment and just breathe while you gather the information you need. If you or someone you love is at risk for lung cancer, here’s what you need to know.

Who might be at risk?

Though the vast majority of people who develop lung cancer smoked, there are people who develop lung cancer who never smoked and weren’t around people who smoke. The people at highest risk have:

  • Smoked cigarettes, cigars or pipes
  • Been exposed to excessive amounts of second hand smoke
  • Worked in areas where they were exposed to asbestos, radon, Agent Orange or other known cancer causing agents
  • People with a family history


Signs and symptoms

Lung cancer may be difficult to detect early because many of the signs symptoms, such as coughing or difficulty breathing, are also signs and symptoms of other illness such as colds and flus.

  • Persistent Coughing is the most common symptom
  • Wheezing and difficulty breathing
  • Coughing up blood
  • Pain in the chest, shoulders, back, ribs or arms
  • Hoarseness
  • Exhaustion and fatigue
  • Pneumonia


What Not to do 

If you are worried about someone in your life, who’s a smoker and you’re worried about them developing lung cancer, nagging and pleading with them to quit probably hasn’t produced the results you were hoping for. People who smoke have heard about the risks a million times. They know they should quit. They know and they know you love them and are only nagging them because you care.

But, and it’s a big Butt! (pun intended) They also don’t want to be reminded….Again. They know. Ok? They know. Stop bugging them, because it makes them want to smoke more.  Smokers are tired of people telling them what to do and may get just a little defensive. Ok, more than a little defensive. Can you blame them? So back off and switch your focus.


Shift the focus to Early Detection 

If you or someone you love has any of the risks listed above and any of the symptoms, then it’s time to talk to your health care provider about screening. The best way to screen for early lung cancer is with a CT scan (Computerized Tomography Scan). These are new guidelines from the American College of Chest Physicians and other respected sources. You can ask your health care provider about it.

If you want to help yourself and at the same time help others, you can enroll in the The REACT Clinical Trial at El Camino Hospital. This combines both genetic testing and a CT scan for people at higher risk for lung cancer for earlier detection.

For other Lung Cancer Clinical Trials, has a matching service to help you find the clinical trials in your area.

For more information you can download this free brochure on Lung Cancer from The Lung Cancer Alliance.


No matter what

Whether you are at risk for lung cancer or someone you love is, there are things you can do right now to improve your health. You know what they are, and if you’re concerned, do ask your provider about help in quitting and screening with CT.


Disclosure: My mom died of lung cancer and I’m interested in helping spread the word about early detection. I’ve teamed up with El Camino Hospital to help them spread the word about Lung Cancer Screening and the REACT clinical trial.

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