Pneumonia and Lung Cancer

While not often thought of as a deadly disease, pneumonia still results in tens of thousands of deaths per year. For those with lung cancer, pneumonia can be an especially dangerous threat.

Despite being responsible for well over 100,000 deaths on a yearly basis, lung cancer symptoms often don’t appear until the disease has entered its advanced stages. This doesn’t mean that potential complications can’t develop, including pneumonia.

As you might expect, the presence of lung cancer can significantly reduce the capabilities of the body’s immune system. Likewise, many common cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, also render the body less able to fend off hostile invaders. As a result, it is estimated that 50 to 70 percent of lung cancer patients experience pneumonia and other infections. These infections can often be fatal; aside from cancerous tumors, infections are the leading cause of death for those diagnosed with lung cancer.

Symptoms and Risk Factors

As noted above, lung cancer symptoms may only appear after a significant amount of time has passed. In contrast, pneumonia symptoms tend to appear more quickly, and can be fairly severe when they develop. Despite these differences, the two conditions do share a number of overlapping symptoms:

  • Coughing: Coughing is often a bigger problem for those with lung cancer, potentially lasting for several weeks once it starts.
  • Shortness of breath: As with coughing, shortness of breath is more pronounced in lung cancer patients than in those dealing with a bout of pneumonia. However, the latter group has been known to develop acute breathlessness at a higher rate.
  • Stabbing chest pains: As you can imagine, stabbing chest pains are not a pleasant thing to deal with. They tend to be especially painful during deep breaths or coughing fits.
  • Tiredness: Experienced by both those with pneumonia and lung cancer, it is often worse for people who have received a lung cancer diagnosis.

Some lung cancer risk factors are obvious, such as habitually smoking tobacco products. Substances such radon, asbestos, and uranium have long been known to cause cancer in those frequently exposed to them. Lung cancer can also run in families.

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