Woman's Fight for a Correct Diagnosis
- A woman sales manager had a persistent cough and was prescribed cough syrup and antibiotics; it later turned out to be lung cancer.
- Her symptoms included cough, swollen neck, pain, and swollen lymph nodes.
- Lung cancer, the second most common type of cancer, is the leading cause of cancer deaths for men and women in the United States.
Burnard was later diagnosed with lung cancer, and now she’s urging others to always listen to their bodies when something feels off.Read More
Alix Burnard’s Cancer Journey
Alix Burnard was diagnosed with lung cancer after she developed what she thought was an infection in March 2021. The Newbury, Berkshire, resident took multiple Covid-19 tests, thinking it might be Covid, but they were all negative. She initially dismissed her symptoms.
But when her neck became swollen, and she was in pain, she sought further care. “I thought maybe I had slept funny and started looking at chiropractors, but it became so swollen on one side that it was quite obvious that something more serious was wrong,” Burnard said, reports The Mirror.
Burnard’s doctor put her on antibiotics. And Burnard had also noticed her lymph nodes were swelling rapidly. “I kept calling the doctors surgery when I felt unwell, but they only suggested cough syrup to help, and wouldn’t see me in the GP surgery because of Covid,” she says.
“By May 2021 I was struggling to breathe and couldn’t talk without running out of air. I was coughing up phlegm constantly, and couldn’t leave the house without a cup to cough up into.” Following some scans, doctors realized she was battling cancer. They initially told her they thought it was lymphoma, but a correct diagnosis of ALK-positive lung cancer was later given.
Symptoms of lung cancer typically include:
- Sudden and unexplained weight loss
- Constant coughing that becomes painful over time
- Shortness of breath
- Changes in voice or difficulty speaking without getting winded
- Pain in the torso, mid- and upper-back, and shoulders
- Discoloration or a sudden change in color of mucus and saliva
Understanding Lung Cancer
Lung cancer, the second most common type of cancer, is the leading cause of cancer deaths for men and women in the United States. Diagnosis and treatment of the disease can be tricky since symptoms often don’t appear until the cancer has spread.
An initial symptom, for example, could be as serious as a seizure if the lung cancer has already spread to the brain. But other symptoms can include increased coughing, chest pain, unexplained weight loss, shortness of breath, wheezing, losing your voice or persistent infections like bronchitis or pneumonia.
The two main types of lung cancer are non-small cell, which makes up 85 percent of cases, and small-cell. These types act differently and, accordingly, require different types of treatment.
Dr. Patrick Forde, a thoracic oncologist at Johns Hopkins Medicine, tells SurvivorNet about how distinguishing between the two types – and their subtypes – can be very beneficial.
“Within that non-small cell category, there’s a subtype called non-squamous adenocarcinoma, and that’s the group of patients for whom genetic testing is very important on the tumor,” he explains. “Genetic testing is looking for mutations in the DNA, in the tumor, which are not present in your normal DNA.”
Contributing: SurvivorNet staff