More than one in three people will develop some form of cancer during their lifetime, according to the NHS. There are over 200 types of the disease – the four main types in the UK are breast cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer and bowel cancer. Symptoms of the different types of cancer can be obvious, such as a lump, but many symptoms are very subtle and can easily be confused with something harmless. If you have a long-lasting cough, for example, you may just think you are struggling to get rid of a cold.
But, in some cases, a long-standing cough can be a sign of a serious health problem, such as lung cancer.
Symptoms of lung cancer develop as the condition progresses and don’t usually appear in the early stages. When symptoms do appear, one of the main signs is a persistent cough.
Everyone experiences a cough every now and then, particularly when you are run down with a cold in the winter months.
But how do you know if your cough is a sign of lung cancer?
Most coughs will disappear after a few days or a couple of weeks, but according to the NHS, a cough associated with lung cancer will still be present after two or three weeks.
If you’ve had a cough for more than three weeks, see a doctor as it could be a warning sign.
Likewise, if your cough is very bad or quickly gets worse, it could also be a warning sign that something is wrong.
If you are coughing up blood, see a doctor urgently. Coughing up blood isn’t always as alarming as it sounds and can be a response to a chest infection.
But always get it checked out, even if it’s just a few spots or specks, as it is also a symptom of lung cancer and other lung problems.
Similarly if you experience a pain or ache when coughing, it could be a sign of something more sinister than just a cold.
Persistent chest infections can also be a sign of lung cancer, as can persistent breathlessness.
If you experience any of the common signs of lung cancer, the NHS advises seeing a doctor.
Less common symptoms of lung cancer include a fever, wheezing, a hoarse voice, difficulty or pain when swallowing, swelling of the face or neck, and persistent chest pain.
The symptoms of lung cancer don’t usually appear until it has spread through the lungs or into other parts of the body.
This means the outlook for the condition isn’t as good as it is for many other types of cancer.
“However, survival rates can vary widely, depending on how far the cancer has spread at the time of diagnosis. Early diagnosis can make a big difference,” warns the NHS.