Lung Cancer : Symptoms and Signs

The symptoms and signs of lung cancer vary depending upon where and how widespread the tumor is.

In fact no symptoms appear in up to 25% of people who get lung cancer. The cancer is only discovered during a routine chest X-ray or CT scan.

A person with lung cancer may have the following kinds of symptoms:

  • The growth of the cancer and invasion of lung tissues and surrounding tissue may interfere with breathing, leading to symptoms such as cough, shortness of breath, wheezing, chest pain, and coughing up blood (hemoptysis).
  • If the cancer has invaded nerves, for example, it may cause shoulder pain that travels down the outside of the arm (called Pancoast’s syndrome) or paralysis of the vocal cords leading to hoarseness. Invasion of the esophagus may lead to difficulty swallowing (dysphagia).
  • If a large airway is obstructed, collapse of a portion of the lung may occur and cause infections (abscesses,pneumonia) in the obstructed area.
  • Lung cancer that has spread to the bones may produce excruciating pain at the sites of bone involvement. Cancer that has spread to the brain may cause a number of neurologic symptoms that may include blurred vision, headaches, seizures, or symptoms of stroke such as weakness or loss of sensation in parts of the body.
  • Lung cancers frequently are accompanied by symptoms that result from production of hormone-like substances by the tumor cells. These paraneoplastic syndromes occur most commonly with SCLC but may be seen with any tumor type.
  • Nonspecific symptoms seen with many cancers, including lung cancers, include weight loss, weakness, andfatigue. Psychological symptoms such as depression and mood changes are also common.

One should consult a docto if he or she develops the symptoms associated with lung cancer, in particular, if they have

  1. a new persistent cough or worsening of an existing chronic cough
  2. blood in the sputum,
  3. persistent bronchitis or repeated respiratory infections
  4. chest pain
  5. unexplained weight loss and/or fatigue
  6. breathing difficulties such as shortness of breath or wheezing.

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