Taking care of yourself

It is important for your health care provider to know of any present or past tobacco use so he or she can be sure that you will get the preventive health care you need. It is well known that using tobacco use puts you at risk for certain health-related illnesses, so part of your health care should focus on related screening and preventive measures to help you stay as healthy as possible. For example, you will want to be certain that you regularly check inside your mouth for any changes. Have your doctor or dentist look at your mouth, tongue, or throat if you have any changes or problems. The American Cancer Society recommends that medical check-ups should include oral cavity (mouth) exams. This way, tobacco users may be able to find changes such as leukoplakia (white patches on the mouth tissues) early, and prevent oral cancer or find it at a stage that is easier to treat.

You should also be aware of any of the following changes:

* Change in cough
* A new cough
* Coughing up blood
* Hoarseness
* Trouble breathing
* Wheezing
* Headaches
* Chest pain
* Loss of appetite
* Weight loss
* General tiredness
* Frequent lung or bronchial infections

Any of these could be signs of lung cancer or a number of other lung conditions and should be reported to a doctor. While these can be signs of a problem, people with lung cancer often do not notice any symptoms until the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

Remember that tobacco users have a higher risk for other cancers as well, depending on the way they use tobacco. You can learn about the types of cancer you may be at risk for by reading our document that discusses the way you use tobacco. Other risk factors for these cancers may be more important than your use of tobacco, but you should know about the extra risks that might apply to you.

If you have any health concerns that may be related to your tobacco use, please see a health care provider as soon as possible. Taking care of yourself and getting treatment for small problems will give you the best chance for successful treatment. The best way, though, to take care of yourself and decrease your risk for life-threatening health problems is to quit using tobacco.