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Clinical Associate Professor Daniel Tan, Senior Consultant, Division of Medical Oncology, National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS), a member of the SingHealth group shares on the symptoms and diagnosis of lung cancer.

Symptoms of lung cancer

Lung cancer usually doesn’t have any symptoms in the early stages. At an advanced stage, patients may experience the following symptoms:

  • A persistent cough that changes or worsens over time
  • Shortness of breath and wheezing
  • Bloodstained sputum or phlegm
  • Chest pain
  • Recurrent chest infections and fever
  • Headaches
  • Sudden and unexplained weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • General weakness and tiredness
  • Bone pain

“A persistent cough, wheezing and chest pain can be caused by other conditions as well and may not necessarily indicate lung cancer. It is therefore important to consult your doctor if any of the symptoms of lung cancer persist or are bothering you,” advises Clin Assoc Prof Tan.

Diagnosing lung cancer

If you have symptoms of lung cancer, your doctor will ask you to undergo the following tests:

  • An X-ray and/or CT (Computed Tomography) scan of the lungs
  • Sputum exam
  • Bronchoscopy – a specialist uses a flexible tubing to examine the airways and possibly do a biopsy (removing small pieces of tissue for examination)

Once lung cancer has been diagnosed, your doctor will determine the stage of the cancer.

  • Stage 1 – Cancer is limited to the lung and the tumour is smaller than 5cm in width
  • Stage 2 – Cancer may have spread to the chest wall or nearby lymph nodes
  • Stage 3 – Tumour may have grown large in size and may have affected other organs or lymph nodes that are further away
  • Stage 4 – Cancer may have spread to the other lung or distant areas of the body

Determining the stage of the lung cancer may require further tests such as a bone scan, CT scan, positron emission tomography (PET) scan or an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging).

“Most people diagnosed with lung cancer are over the age of 40. However, the onset of the disease may be years earlier,” says Clin Assoc Prof Tan.

See the previous page to learn what is the main cause of lung cancer in Singapore.

See the next page for treatment options for lung cancer.

See page 4 to learn how the latest drug therapy can lead to better outcomes

Ref: K21

Check out other articles on cancer and lung cancer:

Top 10 Cancers in Singapore

8 Top Cancer-Fighting Foods

Must-Eat Foods for Cancer Patients

New Study Links Genetic Diversity in Asian Lung Cancer and Resistance to Treatment

Why Non-Smoking Asian Females Can Still Be at Risk of Lung Cancer

Why Asian Lung Cancer Tumours May Be Tougher to Treat