A persistent cough that doesn’t go away, traces of blood in your phlegm, or coughing up blood may all be signs of lung cancer. See a doctor if you have any of these symptoms. Early detection significantly improves outcomes.

Smoking is the main risk factor for lung cancer. If you smoke, consider quitting. Your doctor can recommend a cessation plan to help you stop smoking and support you through the process.

Exposure to substances like asbestos, which can be found in homes and commercial buildings built before 1980, can also increase your risk of lung cancer.

This article reviews the signs and symptoms of lung cancer in people assigned male at birth. It also explores whether people assigned female at birth experience different symptoms.

Facts about lung cancer

  • The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates there will be 238,340 new cases of lung cancer in 2023 in the United States.
  • Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. The ACS estimates around 127,070 people will die from lung cancer in 2023.
  • About 1 in 16 people assigned male at birth will receive a lung cancer diagnosis, notes the ACS.
  • Smoking is responsible for an estimated 80% to 90% of lung cancer cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • The number of new lung cancer diagnoses is decreasing, in part because more people are quitting smoking or not starting.
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People assigned male at birth who have lung cancer may experience various symptoms depending on the stage of their cancer.

You may not experience any specific symptoms of lung cancer in its early stages. Developing a chronic cough is one of the most common early symptoms of lung cancer.

A 2019 study analyzed how frequently people experience certain symptoms of lung cancer in relation to the stage of their cancer at the time of diagnosis. Here are the findings:

SymptomStage 1Stage 2Stage 3Stage 4
Chronic cough51.3%67.0%72.8%63.8%
Shortness of breath2.0%2.7%5.1%5.7%
Fatigue and weakness2.1%2.7%4.1%8.6%
Chest, shoulders, or back pain0.5%0.6%0.4%1.3%
Coughing up blood or blood in the phlegm28.3%37.6%38.4%27.0%
Weight loss 2.2%5.6%8.2%14.1%
Swelling in the neck1.2%3.9%10.0%19.1%
Recurrent chest infections (such as bronchitis and pneumonia)0.3%0.3%0.3%

Contact a doctor if you have any concerning symptoms or questions about your health. They can diagnose your symptoms and recommend immediate treatment. They can also recommend a lung cancer screening test if they think it might be appropriate for you.

Should you be regularly screened for lung cancer?

Early detection of lung cancer can reduce the risk of death by up to 20%.

If you smoke or have smoked in the past, or if you’ve been exposed to a known risk factor for lung cancer, ask a doctor whether a lung cancer screening test might be right for you.

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A 2021 study found no differences in the symptoms of lung cancer between those assigned female and those assigned male at birth.

However, a 2020 study found that those assigned female at birth who have never smoked have a higher risk of developing lung cancer and tend to develop it earlier in their lives than those assigned male.

Researchers also found that people assigned female at birth may be more susceptible to the carcinogens in tobacco than those assigned male at birth. This puts them at a higher risk of developing lung cancer at similar levels of exposure.

Experts have estimated that smoking causes about 90% of lung cancer cases. Other risk factors for lung cancer may include:

  • exposure to secondhand smoke
  • radiation exposure
  • occupational exposure to lung carcinogens materials, such as asbestos and nickel
  • air pollution
  • exposure to indoor radon that may be present in your house and basement

If you smoke, consider quitting. You don’t have to do it alone. Your doctor can recommend cessation programs and other therapies to help you stop smoking.

Lung cancer prevention strategies

You can reduce the risk of developing lung cancer by following these prevention strategies:

  • Avoid tobacco products.
  • If you smoke, try to quit.
  • Avoid exposure to secondhand smoke.
  • Reduce occupational exposure to materials that can cause lung cancer. Use appropriate certified protective gear and follow health and safety guidelines.
  • Eliminate or reduce your exposure to radon.
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People usually have the same lung cancer symptoms regardless of sex or gender. The most common symptoms are a new persistent cough and seeing blood in your phlegm or when you cough.

Smoking is the largest risk factor for lung cancer, causing most lung cancers. Secondhand smoke, air pollution, and exposure to radon, asbestos, and other carcinogens can also increase the risk of developing cancer in your lungs.

If you smoke, consider quitting. You can also ask a doctor for an evaluation to see whether it may be worthwhile to get a screening test for lung cancer.

Detecting lung cancer in its early stages can significantly increase the outcome of the disease.