The FIVE little-known signs of lung cancer nonsmokers should know – as Big Bang Theory’s Kate Micucci reveals diagnosis, despite never touching a cigarette

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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  • Experts warn lung cancer is more common in non-smokers than people realize 
  • Surprising signs include fainting and sudden weight loss 
  • READ MORE: Millions more former smokers must be screened for lung cancer

Getting out of breath, changes to nail shape, passing out, eye problems, weight loss and getting out of breath are all lesser-known signs of lung cancer that nonsmokers could be missing, according to specialists.

Experts have warned that those who’ve never smoked too often pay little attention to red flags, as they assume they are immune to the condition – which is the biggest cancer killer.

However, according to Dr Jorge Gomez, medical director of the solid tumor oncology inpatient unit at The Mount Sinai Hospital, lung cancer in nonsmokers is ‘actually much more common than people realize.’

In fact, up to one in five lung cancer cases happen in nonsmokers, according to the CDC.

This week, actor and star of The Big Bang Theory Kate Micucci, 43, shocked fans when she revealed her recent lung cancer diagnosis – despite never smoking.

The mother-of-one, who is known for her role as Lucy on the CBS sitcom, told the world of her illness via TikTok, announcing that she was currently recovering from surgery.

A persistent cough, breathlessness and passing out can all be symptoms of lung cancer, according to Cancer Research

‘They caught it really early,’ she said. ‘It’s really weird, because I’ve never smoked a cigarette in my life so, you know, it was a surprise.’

Recently, a growing number of experts have warned that lung cancer prevention strategies focus too heavily on smokers – leading those who dodge cigarettes to believe they are immune and ignore warning signs. 

Dr Deborah Lee, who works in the UK, previously said that, as the vast majority of people now don’t smoke – 88 percent – ‘we need to change the message and alert everyone that lung cancer in nonsmokers is common, and we all need to be vigilant about symptoms.’

Now, DailyMail.com has identified the little-known signs of the disease that are too often missed – to help you know when to seek help. 

Sometimes, there are no symptoms in the early stages of lung cancer, experts say.

But more often than not, there are subtle signs that are mistaken for something else. 

For instance, nails that appear wider or swollen could be a signal of lung cancer, according to Cancer Research UK – Britain’s largest cancer charity. 

Up to one in five lung cancer cases happen in nonsmokers, according to the CDC

Up to one in five lung cancer cases happen in nonsmokers, according to the CDC

This symptom is called clubbing. The nails can appear to ‘float’ instead of being attached to the nailbed and form a sharper angle with the cuticle.

Clubbing can also cause the end of the finger to appear large and red and the nail to curve downwards, so it looks like the round part of an upside-down spoon. 

This is caused by hypertrophic pulmonary osteoarthropathy (HPOA) — a condition that causes inflammation in the bones and joints and affects some people with lung cancer.

Tumors in the lung release specific compounds that send signals to the immune system, triggering the inflammation. 

However, not everyone who has lung cancer will develop this symptom. But for some, it may be their only symptom.

Seizures, dizziness and fainting can also be signs of lung cancer, due to hormones released by tumors, say Cancer Research UK.

Although rare, some lung cancer patients develop a condition alongside their cancer called paraneoplastic syndrome.

The condition – which can also occur with other cancers – is triggered by tumors releasing hormones into the bloodstream that cause the body’s organs and systems to behave abnormally. 

This can lead to symptoms that don’t seem related to lung cancer. These include headaches, vomiting, confusion, feeling tired, muscle weakness, seizures, passing out, dizziness and constipation.

One kind of lung cancer, called Pancoast tumor, which grows in the upper part of the lung and account for less than five percent of lung cancer cases – can cause one eyelid to droop, as well as shrunken pupils.

It may also stop sweating on one side of the face, according to Cancer Research.

About 60 percent of people with lung cancer also have significant weight loss at the time of their diagnosis, Cancer Research said. 

The Big Bang Theory star Kate Micucci has revealed she has lung cancer

The Big Bang Theory star Kate Micucci has revealed she has lung cancer

This can be because lung cancer causes a loss of appetite. 

However, some people lose weight even when they are eating normally.

This is called cachexia, where your body doesn’t absorb all the fat, protein and carbohydrate from your food and burns calories faster than normal. 

Scientists say cancer releases chemicals into the blood that contribute to fat and muscle loss.  

It’s not uncommon to get out of breath when going for a run or walking up lots of stairs. 

But if this continues for months on end, it could be a sign of something sinister. 

Doctors say this is especially concerning when coupled with a cough that lasts longer than eight weeks, according to VeryWell Health. 

Other, less subtle tell-tale signs include coughing up blood and pain in the shoulder or chest when coughing.

The actress, 43, who played Raj's (Kunal Nayyar) love interest Lucy in the show in eight episodes between 2013-2017, took to TikTok on Saturday to document her recovery after a successful surgery to remove the disease

The actress, 43, who played Raj’s (Kunal Nayyar) love interest Lucy in the show in eight episodes between 2013-2017, took to TikTok on Saturday to document her recovery after a successful surgery to remove the disease

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the US.

A recent report by the American Cancer Society found that young women are suffering higher rates of lung cancer than men. 

Men were nearly twice as likely as women to develop the disease in the 1980s, driven by higher smoking rates and workplace exposure to substances like asbestos.

But with declining cigarette use and safety regulations, the pattern has flipped, with young and middle-aged women now being diagnosed with the disease at higher rates than men, as they can be slower to give up smoking.

As for nonsmokers, vaping and exposure to secondhand smoke, radon gas and asbestos can raise your risk of lung cancer. 

Dr Richard Wender, chief cancer control officer at the American Cancer Society, previously said: ‘Associating lung cancer with smoking has produced stigma for far too many people. Tens of thousands of people who have never smoked develop lung cancer every year. 

‘No one, neither someone who smokes or someone who never has smoked, should have to feel shame at a cancer diagnosis or worse, experience a delay in diagnosis.’

Vaping introduces a host of chemicals into the lungs, which can get stuck there.

Given that e-cigarettes have only become popular relatively recently, their long-term health effects are not yet known.

But many e-cigarettes contain deadly chemicals that have previously been linked to a higher risk of lung cancer, such as formaldehyde.

Exposure to radon gas is also a risk factor and is the second leading cause of lung cancer. Radon is produced by the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water that eventually becomes part of the air.

Dangerous levels can build up in any building, including homes.

Roughly 30 percent of lung cancer deaths in nonsmokers have been linked to radon exposure. 

Nearly one in 15 homes in America has too much radon.

Exposure to asbestos, such as at the workplace, can also raise your risk of developing cancer. 

While asbestos is no longer used, it was frequently used in building materials and insulation between 1920 and 1970, meaning workers such as builders and firefighters may have been exposed to it over the years.

While not able to be controlled, a family history of the disease can also increase the chance of someone getting lung cancer. 

Researchers have found that only about seven percent of these nonsmokers with lung cancer have mutations present at birth that raise the risk of cancer — either inherited or arising randomly.

Overall, risk is still low, however, as only about eight percent of lung cancers run in families. 

Lung cancer is detected using a low-dose computed tomography scan (CT scan).

One in six people will be diagnosed with lung cancer in their lifetime, and more than 127,000 lives are lost annually. 

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