What Are the Most Common Signs of Lung Cancer?

Read Transcript

Today, today, I'm challenging everything you think you know about lung cancer. Despite what you've been told, we don't have to be a smoker to be at risk. It's the cancer that kills more than breast, colon and pancreatic cancers combined. But hearing the dreaded words that we all fear, you have lung cancer, doesn't have to be a death sentence.

You can catch it early if you know the warning signs like a little cough that never leaves. I was 32, when I was pregnant with my second child and I had a nagging cough, a year later, I still have the cough, and that's when I brought it up with my doctor. She said my lungs are clear but it's good to get the chest X-ray.So we did the chest X-rays which showed the spot on my lung which they believed it was an infection.

But after two weeks on antibiotics Aileen wasn't better. A CT scan was ordered, followed by a biopsy. The doctor called me, told me the results have come in, and it was positive for non-small cell adenocarcinoma. I just knew that was cancer, but it couldn't be. I was healthy, I was a non-smoker, I did not fit the category.

I want to see my kids grow up, so it was terrifying. Lung cancer is the deadliest cancer in the United States. Last year alone more than 220, 000 people were diagnosed, and nearly 160, 000 died. The vast majority are caused by smoking, but shockingly you don't have to be a smoker to get this deadly disease.

I first started trying to figure out what was wrong with me when I was forty. I was tired a lot, I began to get a lot of infections, shortness of breath. For two years I was treated as if I had asthma because I was somebody who had never smoked, nobody ever ever ever mentioned lung cancer.

That's because about 90% of lung cancer are caused by smoking and that's why doctors often miss the deadly signs in a non-smoker. They removed most of my left lung, the tumor inside had been five centimeters,big big big tumor. Scariest of all lung cancer can be a silent killer, with no symptoms at all.

In August of 2004, I pulled a back muscle picking up my son and I went to the doctor, she ordered a CT scan and the CT scan showed that I had a nodule on my left lung. The doctors told me that they were quite certain that it wasn't lung cancer because I didn't have a smoking history.

I wasn't comfortable so I had a second opinion and that pulmonologist said, I had more chances of being struck by lightening than getting a lung cancer. A month later, I had a biopsy and it's a phone call that I'll never forget. I had lung cancer. I really didn't know anything about lung cancer other than the fact that it was a very deadly disease.

And a disease that I didn't think that I ever had to worry about because I wasn't a smoker.