Persistent cough, hoarse voice, coughing up blood – are these symptoms of nose or lung cancer?
Symptoms of nose or lung cancer. A chronic cough, hoarse voice, coughing up blood as well as chest pain, fatigue and poor appetite are common symptoms of lung cancer.
As for nose cancer, its symptoms can be similar to a cold or sinusitis, except that the symptoms do not go away. Here is a summary of the differences:
coughing up blood
a persistent blocked nose usually on one side
a decreased sense of smell
mucus running from the nose
mucus draining into the back of the nose and throat
When these lung cancer symptoms are presented, the cancer is usually at a late stage, at Stage 3 or Stage 4. About 80% of lung cancers are often diagnosed at Stage 3 or beyond.
When should you see a lung specialist for cancer detection?
At the moment, a lung cancer screening programme does not exist in Singapore. Individuals considered to be at high risk will need to voluntarily approach their primary health care doctor for referral to a specialist to look for lung cancer.
However, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends annual screening for lung cancer with low-dose CT (LDCT) scan in adults aged 50 to 80 years who have a 20 pack-per-year smoking history and currently smoke, or have quit within the past 15 years. This recommendation replaces the previous USPSTF statement that recommended annual lung screening for lung cancer with LDCT in adults aged 55 to 80 years who have a 30 pack-per-year smoking history and currently smoke, or have quit within the past 15 years.
A person is considered to be at high risk if he:
- is a smoker, or constantly exposed to secondhand cigarette smoke
- has previous history of any cancer
- has history of cancer in the family
- is aged 40 and above
- is constantly exposed to environmental pollutants, such as secondhand cigarette smoke or asbestos
There is a rising trend of lung cancer among non-smokers and women. Globally, the number of women diagnosed with lung cancer over the past two decades has risen by 27%.
Even non-smokers have lung cancer
A study by the National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS) found that three in 10 lung cancer patients never smoked (“never-smokers”) and 70 per cent of never-smokers with lung cancer here are women.
Despite the lower number of Chinese women smokers in Singapore (less than 4 per cent) compared to their counterparts in other countries such as Germany and Italy (one in five women smoke), the cancer rate among Chinese women in Singapore is higher at eight cases per 100,000 females.
The table below shows that lung cancer is the third-most common cancer affecting men and women in Singapore between 2014 and 2018.
Researchers are still trying to ascertain the cause for this rising trend of lung cancer among non-smokers and women.
This article has been fact-checked by Dr Lim Chong Hee, consultant cardiothoracic surgeon at Surgi-TEN Specialists, Farrer Park Hospital.
Editor’s note: This article has been edited on March 14, 2021 to include an updated recommendation from the US Preventive Services Task Force on lung cancer screening.