Cancer symptoms: 50-year-old man with stage 4 lung cancer noticed first symptoms while swimming

When Bruce Dunbar first noticed that he was “slowing down” during swim training, he thought it might just be one of the caveats that come with turning 50. He then wondered if he was suffering from allergies or asthma. However, several tests concluded that he had stage four lung cancer – meaning it had spread to other parts of the body.

The US father of three already knew how devastating a cancer diagnosis could be, having seen his own father, as well as friends and neighbors, die of cancer.

After his father’s death, he became involved in cancer research, participating in sponsored swimming to raise money.

In a case study, published by Congressional Directed Medical Research Programs, he explained, “My father’s illness inspired my first involvement in cancer research, as I found a way to put my passion for competitive swimming into practice through from an organization that uses swimming events to raise millions for research programs across the country.

“There were survivors who became advocates, funders and volunteers.

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“A neighbor’s struggle with leukemia led me to register as a bone marrow donor, which led me to donate in 2014 to a terminally ill but now healthy 12-year-old.”

It was during training in 2017 that he first noticed that something was wrong.

“I was in the prime of my life, successful at work, loving every minute of raising my three teenage daughters and, by all accounts, a picture of health,” he said.

“I was even training for the longest swim of my life, a seven-mile event on Long Island Sound near my home outside New York City.


“At first I thought it was just turning 50 and a few extra pounds that was holding me back – then maybe asthma or allergies.

“The treatment for that didn’t work, nor for pneumonia. More tests followed, along with more worry, more interruptions, and finally a diagnosis.”

He found out he had non-small cell lung cancer – which makes up about 80% of all lung cancers.

This diagnosis also included anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) amplification – meaning he had mutated forms of a gene that can increase cancer cell growth.

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Since then, Bruce has worked as a consumer reviewer for the Lung Cancer Research Program (LCRP).

He added: “My life, like that of so many others, has been cut short by cancer in so many ways. It will never be the same.

“But my work with the LCRP – which is done alongside some of the leading experts in lung cancer treatment and research and with the support of other patients and the program’s wonderful staff – gives me hope and confidence.

“I end each award cycle feeling there is a real chance of ending cancer forever.”

Some common symptoms of lung cancer include:

  • A cough that doesn’t go away after 3 weeks
  • A long-lasting cough that gets worse
  • Chest infections that keep coming back
  • coughing up blood
  • An ache or pain when breathing or coughing
  • persistent shortness of breath
  • Persistent tiredness or lack of energy
  • Loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss.

Less common signs include:

  • Changes in the appearance of your fingers, such as becoming more curved or your ends becoming larger (this is known as digital clubbing)
  • Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia) or pain when swallowing
  • wheezing
  • a hoarse voice
  • Swelling of the face or neck
  • Persistent chest or shoulder pain.

Smoking is one of the biggest risk factors for developing lung cancer, although some patients have never smoked in their lives.

Other risk factors include exposure to certain chemicals, such as asbestos and coal fumes, as well as air pollution.

Cancer symptoms: 50-year-old man with stage 4 lung cancer noticed first symptoms while swimming

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