Breathlessness is a common symptom of lung cancer, but it can be difficult to spot. When we find ourselves out of breath, we often put it down to something else – from being a bit out of shape, getting older or even anxiety and stress.

Breathlessness is also a symptom of other conditions including chest infections, anaemia, heart problems and other respiratory diseases, such as COPD and asthma.

However, if you are finding yourself getting out of breath, you need to contact your GP surgery.

Signs of breathlessness

There are many different symptoms of breathlessness including

  • Very fast and shallow breathing
  • Trouble catching your breath
  • Breathing louder than normal
  • Increased pulse rate
  • Wheezing
  • Pain in your chest
  • Needing to use your shoulders or chest or stomach muscles to help you breathe
  • Cold, clammy skin, or pale looking skin.

Initially, you may only experience breathless whilst you are being active, such as walking up a slight hill, or climbing the stairs. However, over time you might find yourself getting breathless even when you are resting.

Do not wait for your breathing to get worse. If you are getting breathlessness and this is unusual for you, contact your GP surgery like Pat.

Pat spotted the difference

Pat first started feeling breathless in 2015. She also was extremely tired and had shoulder pain. Whilst initially feeling reluctant to go to her doctor for something that seemed quite small, Pat did take action. She was sent for a chest x-ray and went on to be diagnosed with early stage lung cancer.

Spot the difference in your health

Breathlessness can be difficult to spot so we have created a symptoms tracker where you can keep a note of:

  • When you first started getting breathless
  • How often you are getting breathless
  • Any other potential symptoms.

You can then take this along to your doctor’s appointment to give them the fuller picture of your symptoms.

Under the guidelines of the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE), your GP should offer you an urgent chest x-ray if you are:

  • over 40
  • two or more symptoms including breathlessness, or
  • one symptom and have ever smoked.

Symptoms for urgent chest x-ray include:

  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Weight loss
  • Appetite loss.

If you are not offered a chest x-ray and you mean this criteria, or if you are concerned about breathlessness, don’t be afraid to ask for an x-ray, or for a second opinion. Chances are, everything will be fine but if your breathlessness is being caused by lung cancer, the sooner it is found, the easier it is to treat.