While some diseases affect both genders in the same way, that isn’t true of other medical conditions like cancer. New research on cancer, in general, and lung cancer, in particular, indicates that there are notable differences between how the disease affects men and women.
For example, while lung cancer is closely linked to cigarette smoking and far more men than women smoke, women still account for approximately half of all new lung cancer cases. And, while lung cancer rates have fallen for men and women aged 30 to 54, young women are now developing lung cancer more often than young men.
This blog post will address lung cancer in women in particular, including symptoms of lung cancer in women. Learn more about lung cancer in general.
Signs and Symptoms of Lung Cancer in Women
Many of the symptoms of lung cancer in women are similar to those in men. These include persistent cough, loss of appetite and weight loss. But whereas squamous cell lung cancer is more common in men, adenocarcinomas are more common in women. And because this form of cancer often grows in areas away from the airways and produces tumors that can reach a significant size before they’re detected, signs of lung cancer in women tend to include:
● Shortness of breath that increases gradually
● Chest pain
● Back pain
The chest and back pain that may be early symptoms of lung cancer in females can be caused by the cancer spreading to bones in those areas.
Signs of Lung Cancer in Female Smokers
Cigarette smoking plays a role in approximately 8 out of 10 lung cancer deaths each year. So, reducing smoking or quitting smoking can make a significant difference in a woman’s lung cancer risk. And because the disease can grow and spread quickly in some cases, being alert for the signs of lung cancer in female smokers is important. This includes those who smoke cigarettes and marijuana, as both increase lung cancer risk.
Other Differences in Lung Cancer in Women
As noted above, the most common type of lung cancer in women (and also in non-smokers) is adenocarcinoma, which is a non-small cell lung cancer. This differs from men, in whom small cell lung cancer is more common. Most cases of small cell lung cancer are associated with tobacco use.
Research on lung cancer in women continues, but one factor in why it’s different from lung cancer in men may be the hormone estrogen. Lab experiments have shown that estrogen encourages the growth of tumor cells and that cancer cell growth can be inhibited by treatments that block estrogen. Discoveries related to hormones and lung cancer have led to new therapies that may help women experience better outcomes.
Learn More About Lung Cancer Symptoms from Baptist Health
Take a Health Risk Assessment (HRA) questionnaire to estimate your personal health risk and identify your risk factors for lung cancer.