Cancer can take many forms, but the overarching characteristic shared by all types is the rapid and uncontrolled proliferation of malignant cells. Stopping this growth is key to survivability, but different cancers fare differently. In some cases, symptoms may start off as something as trivial as a cough. Sometimes, however, warning signs may appear in the eyes.
Though survivability of cancer has generally improved in recent decades, outcomes generally hinge on the stage at which the disease is picked up.
Lung cancer, for example, is deemed one of the hardest to survive by the Less Survivable Cancers Taskforce.
However, the disease has a cure rate as high as 80 percent to 90 percent in the early stages.
The health body Cancer explains that these cure rates drop drastically as the tumour becomes more advanced, so early warning signs should never be brushed off.
READ MORE: Lung cancer symptoms: The three ‘early’ signs of lung cancer you might be missing
Some well-known symptoms of lung cancer include wheezing, fatigue, and shortness of breath.
Symptoms may manifest differently, however, depending on where the tumour is located on the lung.
Rocky Mountain Cancer Center (RMCC) explained: “One kind of lung cancer (called a Pancoast tumour) develops in the lung’s upper part.
“Instead of affecting the lungs, these tumours may spread to the ribs, the vertebrae of your spine, or the nerves or blood vessels.”
This type of cancer causes pain in your shoulder blade, upper back, or arms.
RMCC continues: “They might cause numbness or tingling in your hands too. The Pancoast tumours that cause arm/shoulder pain can also cause eye problems.
“Patients may realise that the pupil or one eye is smaller, that eyelid droops, and less perspiration on that side of your face.
“This ‘set’ of eye symptoms is called Horner’s syndrome.”
Horner’s syndrome is the name given to symptoms caused by lung cancer that grows into the nerves at the top of the lung.
Symptoms of Horner’s syndrome warrant a prompt visit to your GP, as delays in diagnosis generally lead to poorer outcomes for patients, according to Anna Jewell, Chair of the Less Survivable Cancers Taskforce.
Ms Jewell added: “We also know the trauma associated with receiving a diagnosis in an emergency setting for both patients and families.
“These cancers are currently difficult or impossible to treat at later stages and the time from diagnosis to death is often brutally short compared to more survivable cancers.
“The situation is critical and has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Treatment for cancer is currently limited, but scientific advancements earlier this year led to the development of the new drug “Sotorasib”, which was shown to halt the growth of tumours for seven months.
The drug is able to do so by targeting the death star mutation, which is found in a quarter of all lung cancer tumours and is notorious for being difficult to penetrate.
NHS England urges anyone who experiences unusual changes such as a persistent cough, a lump in the tummy or breast area, or unexplained weight loss, to get their symptoms checked by a healthcare professional.