Lung cancer often doesn’t cause symptoms in its early stages. But as the cancer grows, you may develop warning signs, such as a persistent cough or shortness of breath.

Any symptoms you experience may vary based on factors such as tumor location and the specific type of lung cancer you have.

Keep reading to learn about the more and less common symptoms of lung cancer, as well as risk factors for the disease.

Lung cancer can cause symptoms that affect your lungs and general symptoms similar to those of many other types of cancer.

The most common symptoms of lung cancer include:

Some of the rarer symptoms of lung cancer are associated with certain types of lung cancer.

Depending on the location of the cancer or how your immune system responds to it, these types of cancer may cause their own unique set of symptoms.

Horner syndrome

Cancers located in the upper part of the lungs are called Pancoast tumors. These tumors can affect the nerves of the eyes and face.

Symptoms associated with these tumors are known collectively as Horner syndrome. They include:

  • drooping of one eyelid
  • severe shoulder pain
  • smaller pupil in one eye
  • little or no sweating on one side of the face

Superior vena cava syndrome

The large vein that transports blood from the head and arms to the heart is called the superior vena cava (SVC). If a tumor develops in the right lung or in the nearby lymph nodes of the chest, it can press against the SVC, causing symptoms such as:

SIADH syndrome

The syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone secretion (SIADH) is a condition where the body makes and releases too much antidiuretic hormone (ADH).

ADH helps the kidneys control how much water your body loses through urine. Too much ADH causes your body to hold onto too much water.

This syndrome occurs in 7 to 16 percent of small cell lung cancer cases.

Symptoms of SIADH syndrome include:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • irritability
  • personality changes, such as combativeness, confusion, and hallucinations
  • seizures
  • stupor
  • coma

Metastasized lung cancer symptoms

If the cancer spreads from the lungs to distant body parts, it can cause symptoms such as:

Smoking is by far the greatest risk factor for developing lung cancer. The risk increases the longer and more you smoke.

Other risk factors include exposure to:

Additional risk factors include:

The link between smoking and lung cancer

Anybody can get lung cancer, but smoking is responsible for up to 90 percent of lung cancers.

Lung cancer was a relatively rare disease until smoking rates increased drastically in the 1900s. There are now an estimated 225,000 cases of lung cancer per year in the United States.

The best way to minimize your chances of developing lung cancer is to avoid smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke.

Was this helpful?

Lung cancer is most treatable in its early stages. It’s important to visit a doctor for an official diagnosis if you develop potential warning signs of lung cancer.

The National Cancer Institute lists the survival rate for cancer localized to the lungs as 59 percent. It’s 5.7 percent if cancer spreads to distant body parts.

The most recent American Cancer Society screening guidelines recommend people at high risk of developing lung cancer get an annual low-dose CT scan.