Many people live with breathlessness for long periods of time, before even considering going to the doctor. Many try and explain breathlessness away – ‘I’m not as fit as I once was, I haven’t been to the gym for a while’ or, ‘I’m feeling more anxious than usual’.
But if you are getting more breathless than normal, and there isn’t any real reason for that, then it is important that you go and get it checked out.
Breathlessness (also called dyspnoea) occurs when not enough oxygen is being taken into your lungs. Your lungs then have to work harder to make up for it and you find yourself breathing more heavily. If you are feeling short of breath, you may feel a tightening of your chest, pain when breathing in, or experience shallow/fast breathing.
You may feel very tired as a result of being breathless, and many everyday activities including walking up stairs and doing the weekly shop may seem more of a struggle. You might even feel out of breath while resting. Feeling short of breath can be an exhausting and frustrating experience and should not be ignored or excused, or something you just put up with.
Breathlessness is something that Debra knows only too well. She struggled to walk down to her village without having to stop two or three times to catch her breath.
Debra went on to be diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. By the time she started treatment, the symptoms were very severe. But, less than two weeks of being on treatment, her symptoms improved significantly. She is now encouraging others experiencing breathless to get themselves checked out.
“I know it’s scary getting the diagnosis, but getting the diagnosis is better than sitting there worrying about it and not knowing. Not knowing won’t change it, it will still be there. Knowing about it and getting started on treatment earlier gives you a much better prognosis. You can live a good life even at Stage 4 lung cancer.”
Most people who are short of breath will not have lung cancer. However, figures indicate that 90% of people with advanced lung cancer will experience breathlessness at some point during their illness, so it is always better to contact your GP.
The NHS is Still Here
Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, at least 14,000 fewer people have been referred for lung cancer tests by their GP. This is due to people following the Government’s stay at home messages and not making GP appointments. But remember, the NHS is still here, and if you are getting short of breath, your GP wants to see you.
The earlier that lung cancer is diagnosed, the better your prognosis will be. What’s more, the sooner you can get started on treatment, the quicker your symptoms can be managed, and your quality of life can improve.
Know all the symptoms
There are many different symptoms of lung cancer. Some people have one, others have more. Some even have none.
As well as being short of breath, other signs and symptoms of lung cancer include:
- A persistent cough
- Repeat chest infections
- Chest and/or shoulder pain
- Loss of appetite and/or unexplained weight loss
- A cough that changes or gets worse
- 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 one from being diagnosed. If you are experiencing any symptoms, including unexplained breathlessness, contact your doctor.