Health Awareness

At risk for lung cancer? Know the signs & symptoms

Don't gloss over it, visit a doctor – do it FOR yourself

November 17, 2021

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Delayed doctor’s visits can have a lasting impact, especially for those at risk for lung cancer

With more time spent at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us became do-it-yourself-ers – taking on new home improvement projects, dinner recipes and self-care routines. But one thing we may not have tackled is our health.

According to the World Health Organization, many countries experienced disruptions to health services during the pandemic, including primary care visits and cancer screenings.

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This is concerning because certain diseases, such as lung cancer, have better outcomes when detected early.

Annabelle Gurwitch, best-selling author and activist living with lung cancer

“In May 2020, I went to an urgent care center for a COVID-19 test. I mentioned I had a persistent cough but couldn’t recall how long it had been going on – and like many people during the pandemic, I put off going to the doctor to have it checked out. The COVID-19 test was negative, but a chest X-ray revealed a concerning mass on one of my lungs. Soon after, I received a diagnosis of stage four lung cancer.”

Early detection of lung cancer is important

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death worldwide, accounting for nearly 1-in-5 cancer-related deaths. Most lung cancers are not diagnosed until they have reached a late stage and are harder to treat.

That’s why it’s so important to get our primary care visits back on track, especially if something isn’t right.

“Many are unaware of the importance of early detection and there’s also very little understanding about lung cancer in general, including the signs and symptoms of the disease. Personally, I had no idea how prevalent lung cancer is among active, otherwise healthy, non-smoking women like myself. Had I been aware, I might have gotten my cough checked out sooner and maybe even been diagnosed at an earlier stage. That’s why I am sharing my story to encourage people to prioritize their health and schedule their routine doctor’s visits,” says Annabelle.

Recognizing symptoms of lung cancer and knowing your risk

Some of the most common symptoms of lung cancer are an unexplained, persistent cough lasting more than three weeks or shortness of breath.

While anyone can get lung cancer, your risk goes up if you are over 50 years old and:

  • currently smoke or smoked in the past
  • have been around secondhand smoke
  • have a family history of the disease, such as a parent or sibling
*The above list does not include all risk factors for lung cancer

Don’t gloss over it: Schedule a doctor’s visit

Now that we are starting to return to our regular schedules, it’s time to tackle our health again. If you have an unexplained cough lasting more than three weeks or shortness of breath, don’t gloss over it.

While you may still have some concerns about visiting your doctor, most offices have rules to protect their patients, such as COVID-19 screenings. Work with your doctor to come up with a plan that’s best for you.

Do it FOR yourself and take this simple step to help protect your health.