Lung Cancer Symptoms
Most lung cancers do not cause any symptoms until they have spread too far to be cured, but symptoms do occur in some people with early lung cancer. If you go to your doctor when you first notice symptoms, your cancer might be diagnosed at an earlier stage.In approximately 40 percent of people diagnosed with lung cancer, the diagnosis is made after the disease has advanced. In one third of those diagnosed, the cancer has reached stage 3. It’s important to report any unusual physical feelings to your doctor. Often, these unusual feelings can be attributed to other causes, such as bronchitis. But a doctor should check anything that is unusual or worrisome.
The most common symptoms of lung cancer are:
- A cough that does not go away or gets worse – Be on alert for a new cough that lingers. While a cough associated with a cold or respiratory infection will go away in a week or two, a persistent cough that lingers can be a possible sign of lung cancer. Don’t be tempted to dismiss a stubborn cough, whether it is dry or mucus-producing, as “just a cough.” See your doctor right away. He or she will listen to your lungs and may order an X-ray or other tests.
- Chest pain that is often worse with deep breathing, coughing, or laughing – Lung cancer may produce pain in the chest, shoulder, or back area. This aching feeling may not be associated with coughing. Tell your doctor if you notice any type of chest pain, whether it is sharp, dull, constant, or comes and goes. You should also note whether it is confined to a specific area or is occurring throughout your chest. When lung cancer causes chest pain, the discomfort may result from enlarged lymph nodes or metastasis to the chest wall, pleura (lining around the lungs), or the ribs.
- Hoarseness – If you hear a significant change in your voice, or if someone else points out that your voice sounds deeper, hoarse, or raspier, get checked out by your doctor. Hoarseness can be caused by a simple cold, but this symptom becomes worrisome when it hangs on for more than two weeks. Hoarseness related to lung cancer can occur when the tumor affects the nerve that controls the larynx, or voice box.
- Weight loss and loss of appetite – An unexplained weight loss of 10 pounds or more may be associated with lung cancer or another type of cancer. When cancer is present, this weight drop may result from cancer cells using energy in the body. It could also result from shifts in the way the body uses food energy. Don’t write off a change in your weight if you haven’t been trying to shed pounds—it may be a clue to a change in your health.
New onset of wheezing – When airways become constricted, blocked, or inflamed, the lungs produce a wheezing or whistling sound when you breathe. Wheezing can be associated with multiple causes, some of which are benign and easily treatable. However, wheezing is also a lung cancer symptom, which is why it merits your doctor’s attention. If wheezing continues, don’t assume it’s asthma or allergies. Have your doctor confirm what’s causing it.