World lung cancer day: Unmasking 6 Warning Signs

World lung cancer day: The escalating levels of air pollution and the ongoing global warming crisis have far-reaching, adverse repercussions for both our environment and our well-being. In this context, our lungs, which play a vital role in purifying the air we inhale, bear the brunt of these consequences and are particularly vulnerable to the detrimental effects of pollutants and shifts in climate. The ‘Big Five’ respiratory or lung diseases, comprising asthma, pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer, and tuberculosis (TB), stand out in this context. Among them, COPD, asthma, and lung cancer are disproportionately influenced by airborne pollutants[1], and these three conditions, alongside tuberculosis, have been identified as the primary causes of mortality[2].

As a result of these concerns, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS) have designated September 25 as World Lung Day, aiming to enhance global awareness and efforts for improved lung health. This year, under the theme “Access to Prevention and Treatment for All: Leave No One Behind,” the organization seeks to underscore the critical significance of ensuring equal access to prevention and treatment of lung diseases. Clean air and essential lung care represent basic rights that should be accessible to every individual, regardless of their circumstances, in order to safeguard the well-being of all people and promote healthy lungs for everyone.

Here are 6 warning signs of lung diseases to watch for:

1. Persistent Cough: While an occasional cough is a normal occurrence, if you find yourself continuously coughing for an extended period, typically lasting for eight weeks or more, it should raise concern. This kind of lingering cough is categorized as chronic and may be an indication that there’s an underlying issue within your respiratory system.

2. Breathlessness: Experiencing ongoing, unexplained shortness of breath, whether it persists after physical activity or arises with minimal exertion, is not a typical or healthy condition. Furthermore, if you struggle to inhale and exhale comfortably, this is a warning sign as well. This condition, known as dyspnea, can be a common symptom of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, also known as COPD.

3. Excessive Mucus Production: Mucus, also referred to as sputum or phlegm, serves as a natural defense mechanism of your airways against infections and irritants. When this production of mucus persists for a month or longer, it may indicate an underlying lung condition. A study conducted in Mysore, Karnataka, found that persistent cough and chronic mucus production were significant indicators of respiratory morbidity, contributing to a decline in lung function, increased rates of hospitalization, and a higher risk of mortality[3].

4. Wheezing: Wheezing manifests as a whistling sound while breathing, often signaling narrowed or constricted airways that impede the free flow of air. This symptom is commonly associated with conditions such as asthma, allergies, or COPD. If you experience wheezing, it is crucial to promptly seek medical evaluation to determine the underlying cause and receive appropriate care.

5. Coughing Up Blood: Known as hemoptysis, coughing up blood can be a sign of a serious health issue. It can originate from your lungs or upper respiratory tract due to conditions like lung cancer, tuberculosis, or pulmonary embolism.

6. Chronic Chest Pain or Discomfort: Unexplained chest pain that persists for a month or more, especially if it worsens during inhalation or coughing, is termed chronic chest pain. Chest pain associated with lung problems can range from sharp, stabbing sensations to a persistent ache. Conditions related to the lungs, such as pneumonia, pleurisy, or even lung cancer, can be linked to chest pain as a symptom.

Recognizing the early indicators of lung disease can help in timely intervention, potentially preventing the condition from progressing to a severe or life-threatening stage.

(The article is written by Dr.Subita Alagh, Senior Executive, and reviewed by Monalisa Deka, Senior Health Content Editor

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