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The Signs & Symptoms of Lung Cancer

Incredibly, there are many people with lung cancer who present no symptoms at the time when they are diagnosed. Many of these cancers are actually identified when patient’s come in to have a chest X-ray taken for some other reason. The symptoms that are associated with lung cancer are produced as a direct result of the patient’s tumor, the effects of the cancer metastasizing to other areas of the body, or further disturbances in the blood, hormones, or other systems.

(If you are living with this disease, we are enrolling participants for this lung cancer clinical trial in Birmingham, AL.)

The signs and symptoms of lung cancer can include any of the following:

  • New cough develops in smoker or former smoker that doesn’t go away
  • A persistent cough that gets worse over time
  • Coughing up blood is often a red-flag for lung cancer. You should certainly have this checked out by your doctor.
  • One fourth of people with lung cancer do experience pain in the chest. This pain can be aching, dull, and persistent.
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Coughing up rusty-colored phlegm
  • Shortness of breath which could be caused by a blockage in the lung, fluid that has collected around the lungs (pleural effusion), or a tumor that is spreading through the lungs
  • Hoarseness or wheezing can also be a signal of lung blockage or inflammation that could be linked with cancer
  • Experiencing repeat respiratory infections, like pneumonia or bronchitis, could be caused by lung cancer

Metastatic Lung Cancer

Lung cancer can start to metastasize or spread to other areas of the body, which will produce varying symptoms based on the location and how far the cancer has spread (lung cancer treatment options become more limited at this stage). Nearly 40 percent of all lung cancer patients have presented with some indications of metastatic disease.

  • Lung cancer most commonly spreads to the bones, brain, and liver
  • Metastatic lung cancer which has spread to the brain can cause vision problems, seizures, or weakness on one side of the body
  • Lung cancer in the liver can cause jaundice (a yellowing of the skin and eyes)
  • Lung cancer which has spread to the bones literally produces bone pain, often in the patient’s vertebrae, the ribs, and the thigh bones.

Paraneoplastic Syndromes

Some patients may also experience some remote indirect effects from their cancer which are known as paraneoplastic syndromes. The symptoms that these syndromes can produce include:

  • High concentration of calcium in the blood
  • New bone formation – painful ones can form in the fingertips
  • Blood clots
  • Low levels of sodium in the bloodstream

When to Seek Medical Attention

You should consider making an appointment with your primary health care provider if you have experienced any of the symptoms that are associated with lung cancer. This is especially important if you are a smoker or were a former smoker. Your doctor will probably suggest some strategies for quitting, such as participating in a smoking cessation trial, nicotine gum, counseling, or other medications.