Lung Cancer Symptoms

By Rey Maquiling (RN pending – Dec 2011)

Listed below are the symptoms of both early stage lung cancer, and also the symptoms that typically only appear when the cancer is more advanced.  The threat of lung cancer lies in the fact that it is asymptomatic at the earlier stages and symptoms would only begin to manifest at later stages when metastasis has started growing at an uncontrollable rate.

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Although symptoms are dependent on the type of lung cancer, they may generally include the following:

  • Persistent cough – This type of cough lasts longer than usual and is associated with other symptoms that do not go away when treated with normal over the counter medications.  Some incidence also characterizes it as a cough that worsens over time.
  • Hemoptysis (coughing out of blood) – This symptom suggests lesions in the lung tissue caused by the abnormal cell growth.  It has marked association with other chronic lung diseases as well including pulmonary tuberculosis.
  • Dyspnea (shortness of breath or difficulty in breathing even without prior activity) – This may be associated with pleural effusion (collection of fluid around the lung), blockage of airflow in a certain part of a lung, or the spread of the tumor throughout the whole lung.
  • Chest Pain – This is a dull, persistent pain in the chest that sometimes extends to the upper part of the abdomen.
  • Weight Loss, Fatigue and Loss of Appetite – These are associated with most types of cancers and are unexplainable in nature.
  • Repeated Respiratory Infections despite completion of medical regimen and compliance to medications may also be a sign of lung cancer.

Other signs and symptoms that occur at the later stages of lung cancer include:

  • Weakness – This is often attributed to the paraneoplastic symptoms that occur concurrently with lung cancer.  It happens because of the production of autoantibodies that attack the normal occurring and existing cells in the body.
  • Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing) – This may signify metastasis of the cancer cells to the esophagus.
  • Clubbing – This is the defined as the abnormal changes of the curvature of the nail in relation to the nail bed.  It is an uncommon symptom yet still poses a cause for alarm.
  • Hoarseness (Dysphonia)
  • Shoulder Pain – Otherwise known as the Pancoast’s syndrome is a type of shoulder pain that travels down the outside of the arm.
  • Bone Pain and Tenderness
  • Swelling of the face and arms
  • Facial Paralysis
  • Eyelid Drooping

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At the earliest manifestations of these symptoms, it is imperative to visit a physician preferably a specialist in the field. As lung cancer more commonly affects the mid-adult ages of 40 to 60, people must adhere to their suggested yearly medical check-up because aggressive treatment and better prognosis is especially dependent on early detection of the tumor. There is no known cure yet for all types of cancer; therefore, everyone is enjoined to be vigilant with their health and to take steps to prevent lung cancer from occurring in the first place.