Losing weight for no obvious reason may not be an obvious symptom of lung cancer. It can be tempting to explain away an expected weight loss as being down to a busy lifestyle or a change in diet or daily routine. Some of us may even welcoming losing a bit of weight. But weight loss can be a vital sign that something is not quite right.
Weight loss or loss of appetite are actually quite common symptoms of lung cancer, with around 60% of people with the disease having experienced it by the time of their diagnosis.
Lung cancer can spread swiftly within the body, so it’s important to act as soon as you first notice symptoms, including weight loss and/or a loss of appetite.
Dipti Goraniya knows all too well just how quickly circumstances can change.
Her dad, Keshu, was very special. He always gave her the very best advice, and they had a wonderful relationship. He cut a physically imposing figure, so when he began to shed a bit of weight, Dipti and her family weren’t concerned. Not at first.
“Dad was quite happy to have lost a few kilos. When I asked him about it, he would just say that he was watching his diet. He looked good too. Little did we know that it was a symptom of something far more sinister.”
It took many months for Keshu to be diagnosed. At first, he wrote off his weight loss and persistent cough. Then, when he did go to the doctors, it took a while for him to get diagnosed. He was young, fit and a non-smoker, so was given several rounds of antibiotics.
Keshu was finally diagnosed in August but died before he could start treatment.
“Knowing what I know now about lung cancer, as soon as that weight loss happened, we shouldn’t have just listened to my Dad saying it’s just diet. He’s never lost weight, what were we thinking?”
Understanding weight loss
People with lung cancer may find themselves losing weight unexpectedly, even if they are eating normally.
The medical term for this kind of weight loss is cachexia.
It’s the result of the body not absorbing all the fat, protein and carbohydrates from the foods you eat. The body may also be burning calories much faster than normal, and it can lose muscle weight as well as fat.
People with lung cancer can also experience a loss of appetite which too can result in weight loss.
If you are losing weight, it’s important to keep track of how much you are losing. There are a couple of ways you can monitor your weight:
- – Weigh yourself once a week at the same time. Make sure you are wearing similar weighted clothes, or even the same.
- – If you don’t have any scales, you can keep an eye on how your clothes are fitting you. If your clothes are becoming looser, or if your watch or rings don’t fit as well, then you should contact your doctor.
Know all the symptoms
Lung cancer has several symptoms. Some people may have one, others might have more, and some have none at all.
As well as unexplained weight loss, signs and symptoms of lung cancer include:
– A persistent cough that lasts three weeks or more
– Frequent chest infections
– A cough that changes or gets worse
– Chest and/or shoulder pain
– Coughing up blood or blood in your phlegm
– Unexplained fatigue or lack of energy
– Finger clubbing
– Swelling in the face or neck.
Lung cancer was not cancelled because of coronavirus. Don’t let the pandemic stop you or your loved ones from being diagnosed. If you experience any symptoms, including unexplained weight loss, please contact your doctor.