When it comes to health, I think that one of the best ways we protect ourselves is by always “checking in” with our own bodies.
After all, only a doctor can diagnose an issue, but no one knows your body better than you.
You’ll be the first to know when something is wrong, even before visible symptoms emerge — you’ll just feel “off,” like we saw in the case of the young woman who insisted on a biopsy after four doctors misdiagnosed her tumor.
It’s not that doctors don’t know what they’re talking about, it’s just that no one knows what’s normal for your body the way you do.
That’s why it’s so important for all of us to be aware of the hard-to-detect early symptoms that can predict a serious medical problem.
Even more important? Women should be aware that female bodies might show different symptoms than male bodies.
Lung cancer, in particular, kills more women a year than any other form of cancer, but few women are aware of all the symptoms, particularly those specific to their gender.
Sign #1: Shortness Of Breath
We all know what it feels like to be short of breath, but most of us experience the sensation after exerting ourselves.
If just getting out of bed in the morning is causing you to lose your breath, that can be a serious sign of respiratory issues.
Shortness of breath is one of the early symptoms of just about every form of lung cancer.
Sign #2: Feeling Of Fatigue
Overwhelming fatigue is a symptom of a lot of different illnesses, from the flu to lupus.
If you’re feeling exhausted in a way that goes past the irritability of a sleepless night, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor right away.
Fatigue can be your body’s way of telling you that it’s using up spare energy to try to heal you.
Sign #3: Constant Coughing
If you have a cough that just will not go away, and seems to be getting worse, it’s time to go in for a checkup.
Coughing is your body’s natural reaction to an irritation in your respiratory system, but if it doesn’t go away, that might indicate that the irritation hasn’t left either.
Coughing constantly is a prominent early warning sign of just about every form of lung cancer, and it can help you detect the problem and seek treatment quickly.
Sign #4: Back And Shoulder Pain
You probably don’t associate back pain with your lungs, but for women, sharp aches and pain around the shoulder blades can indicate that something is amiss.
That’s because women are more prone to a form of lung cancer called adenocarcinoma.
The tumors from this form of cancer grow in the outer layers of the lungs, so they might put pressure on your ribs and spine.
Sign #5: Hoarse Voice
We normally associate a hoarse voice with a smoking habit, but in some cases, sudden hoarseness might be a symptom of spreading cancer.
Cancer in your respiratory tract might cause your vocal cords to become irritated and inflamed, and make your voice hoarse or scratchy.
If hoarseness in your throat persists three or more weeks, it’s time to have your throat and lungs checked.
Sign #6: Weight Loss
Most of us are usually hard at work trying to shed that last 10 or 15 stubborn pounds.
If you suddenly find you’re losing weight without trying, and you’re losing it fast, it may be a cause for concern.
When your body is in discomfort, you might burn your fat stores and have less of an appetite for building new ones.
Sign #7: Trouble Swallowing
If you’re experiencing swelling and inflammation in your respiratory track, you might also notice it’s difficult to swallow.
A little leftover soreness from a cold is nothing to worry about, but if you consistently have trouble choking down food or water, you may need to consider what’s causing your throat to swell.
Your doctor can help you eliminate factors like allergies or infections before exploring other possibilities.
Sign #8: Chest Pain
As we noted earlier, adenocarcinomas sometimes have slightly different symptoms than other forms of lung cancer.
They can cause chest pain the same way they cause back pain, and they also may lead to pleural effusion, a painful condition where the lining of the lungs becomes inflamed.
If you experience persistent pain in one spot in your ribs, it might be time for a second opinion.