There have been many changes in medicine since I was in medical school, but one thing remains constant. The importance of knowing the symptoms of a disease has little to do with how much voice it gets.
We hear about the symptoms of heart disease - and even how those symptoms may differ in men and women. It's hard not to hear the symptoms of a host of diseases when turning on a TV set. I might even argue that it would be fun to check out if our awareness of those symptoms has anything to do with the bottom line of the corporation funding those commercials. But this isn't the time or place.
My concern today is lung cancer. And specifically lung cancer in non-smokers. How often do we hear the possible symptoms of lung cancer in non-smokers outlined between our prime time shows?
We aren't talking about small numbers. Lung cancer is the leading cause of death in men and women in the United States, and 20% of women who get lung cancer have never touched a cigarette. To put that number in different light, nearly as many never-smoking women die from lung cancer each year as die from breast cancer.
But just as the symptoms of heart disease in men and women can differ, and the news is being spread to be on the lookout, the symptoms of lung cancer in smokers and non-smokers can differ.
Lung cancer is not one disease. The types of lung cancers - and where they occur in the lungs - varies significantly between people who smoke and those who have never smoked or smoked only lightly. And different types of lung cancer can have different types of symptoms.
Knowledge can be power when it comes to lung cancer. We don't have a good widespread screening tool available yet, though we know survival is higher when it is diagnosed in the early stages. We have to depend on an awareness of symptoms. What symptoms?
Check out: Symptoms of Lung Cancer in Non-Smokers