Symptoms do not generally occur in the early stages of lung cancer, but become present as the disease advances. It is important to note that this list of symptoms does not necessarily indicate lung cancer. If you experience these symptoms, you should contact your health care provider for a clear diagnosis. Common symptoms of lung cancer include:
Coughing is your body’s way of trying to expel an irritant from the throat or airways by pushing a burst of air into the lungs. A cough that is intense, persistent, or consistently worsens can be a sign of lung cancer, and should be investigated. If you cough up blood or bloody mucus and phlegm, contact your doctor immediately.
Read about other causes of coughing.
Shortness of Breath (Dyspnea)
Sometimes this sensation is described as a tight or crushing feeling in the chest. The spread of lung cancer can cause blockages in the major airways or the buildup of fluid around the lungs (plueral effusion), causing a shortness of breath.
Find out other causes of Dyspnea.
Wheezing can be described as a high-pitched whistling that occurs when you breathe out. It is caused by constricted air passages, which may be the result of a tumor.
Read about other causes of wheezing.
Hoarseness or Change in Voice
Normally, your vocal chords produce sound by opening and closing, causing vibrations. If lung cancer has spread to the throat, they can become irritated and inflamed, causing a change or hoarseness in your voice.
Find out other causes of hoarseness.
Fatigue is a constant worn-down feeling. With a disease like lung cancer, your body is under constant attack and works overtime to try to fight the disease and heal itself. This effort can bankrupt you of energy and leave you feeling tired and unmotivated.
Read about other causes of fatigue.
A fever is an indication that something abnormal is happening in your body. When you are ill, your temperature rises above its normal 98.6 degrees in the body’s attempt to minimize heat loss and fight off infection. If the fever doesn’t go away in a few days, contact your doctor.
Find out other causes of fever.
When the tiny blood vessels (capillaries) in your body are damaged or undergo pressure, they leak fluid. Your kidney responds by retaining water and salt to compensate for the loss. This excess fluid causes the capillaries to leak more fluid. Your lymph nodes clear excess fluid from your body. A lung cancer tumor can block or damage your lymph nodes, preventing them from doing their job and resulting in the swelling of the neck, face, and arms.
Find out other causes of swelling.
Other Lung Cancer Symptoms
- Pain in the shoulders or back
- Constant chest pain
- Frequent or recurring lung infections (i.e. pneumonia and bronchitis)
- Unintended weight loss
- Loss of Appetite
Other symptoms associated with lung cancer may occur once it has spread to different parts of the body (metastasized). These symptoms include:
- Bone and joint pain
- Dizziness or seizures
- Unsteadiness or memory loss
- Yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice)
- Weakness or numbness of the arms and legs
- Blood clots
- Lumps near the surface of the skin, especially by the lymph nodes
Sometimes when it spreads, lung cancer can literally strike a nerve, causing a group of symptoms (called a syndrome) to develop.
Horner syndrome occurs when a tumor forms in the upper part of the lung, damaging a nerve that passes from the upper chest to the neck, causing severe neck or shoulder pain. Additional symptoms of this syndrome include:
- Drooping or weakness of one eyelid (ptosis)
- Smaller pupil size in the same eye
- Reduced or absent sweating on the same side of the face (anhidrosis)
Some lung cancers can cause paraneoplastic syndrome—caused when the cancer produces hormone-like substances that enter the blood and cause problems in other organs or tissue. The symptoms praneoplastic syndrome causes are not a direct result of cancerous cells, but they are sometimes the first symptoms of lung cancer. These symptoms often do not generate an immediate lung cancer diagnosis because they do not affect the lungs.