10 Signs of Lung Cancer You Shouldn’t Ignore

Lung cancer is a common type of cancer that targets the lungs. The symptoms and their severity depend may son the location, how far the growth has spread, and the time of diagnosis. A Pancoast Tumor, for example, may produce symptoms not often associated with lung cancer due to its location at the top of the lung. Nevertheless, it is important to know about these symptoms to receive an early diagnosis. 

If you notice any of the ten symptoms listed below, schedule an appointment with your doctor. 

1. Constant Fatigue 

Fatigue is a very common symptom of many types of cancer, including lung cancer. It’s not the same as feeling sleepy after not getting enough sleep; instead, the fatigue will feel almost debilitating. You might find that you can’t finish your daily chores and tasks as you once could. 

While this symptom may not mean lung cancer, it is always worth getting it checked by the doctor. No one should have to live with chronic fatigue.

2. Unexplained Weight Loss 

Losing weight after upping your exercise or cutting calories is normal. Unexplained weight loss, however, is something to be concerned about, as it could point to lung cancer (as well as many other kinds of cancer).

Cancer cells1 use up a lot of energy, meaning more calories get burned. Combine that with a loss of appetite, and weight loss quickly happens. See a doctor if you lose a significant amount of weight without explanation. 

3. A Persistent Cough

Everyone gets a cough occasionally – but what makes a cough a little more worrying is when it is persistent. 

Generally, you should schedule a doctor’s appointment if you have a cough for longer than two weeks. It might be a simple virus you can get rid of with antibiotics, or a sign of something a little more serious, like lung cancer. 

4. Coughing Up Blood 

Coughing up blood is something that you should never ignore. There are several potential reasons for coughing up blood – one of the more serious being lung cancer. 

The medical term for coughing up blood is hemoptysis2, which occurs in around seven to ten percent of patients with lung cancer. 

5. Getting Out of Breath Easily 

People get out of breath quickly when their fitness levels are low. However, if you suddenly get out of breath much quicker than usual, it could be a sign of lung cancer. 

You might notice this after walking up the stairs or running for a short period – if it takes you much longer to recover than usual, you should see a doctor to figure out the root cause. 

6. Chest Tightness

Chest tightness is a common symptom of lung cancer. It occurs when a tumor compresses an area, creating a tight sensation often accompanied by pain and coughing. You should never ignore this, especially if it doesn’t go away. 

7. Shoulder and Arm Pain

You might not associate shoulder pain with lung cancer, but it can be a sign of Pancoast tumor 3in the apex of the lung. Instead of producing typical lung cancer symptoms like coughing, it causes symptoms like shoulder pain, arm pain, and swelling. 

These unusual symptoms are due to the tumor’s location and how it compresses and invades specific nerves and blood vessels. If you have unexplained shoulder or arm pain, it is worth bringing up the possibility of a Pancoast tumor with your doctor. 

8. Respiratory Problems

Lung cancer often produces respiratory problems in patients. For example, someone with undiagnosed lung cancer might get multiple chest infections. So, if you seem to have more respiratory issues than usual, ask your doctor for a chest scan. 

9. A Painful Cough

One factor that can distinguish a normal cough from a lung cancer cough is pain. Those with lung cancer will often get a painful cough that doesn’t stop. It’s more intense than a usual cough, and for this reason, it’s often the symptom that pushes people toward getting a diagnosis. 

10. Headaches

Another symptom of lung cancer that you might not expect is headaches. If a tumor is in a specific location, it can compress the vena cava, resulting in headaches. 

If you experience intense or persistent headaches, it is always worth getting them checked by a doctor.  

Preventing Lung Cancer 

It is equally as important to know how to prevent lung cancer as it is to understand the signs. While there is no way to prevent lung cancer for sure, there are ways to reduce your chances of developing the condition, which include: 

  • No smoking 
  • Avoiding secondhand smoke (also called ‘passive smoking’)
  • Consuming a healthy and balanced diet4
  • Exercising regularly 
  • Avoiding carcinogens5 
  • Checking the home for radon gas

Stopping smoking is especially important, as it is the number one risk factor for lung cancer. Even breathing in secondhand smoke can increase your chances of getting lung cancer.

Plus, if your work involves being around carcinogens, you must take proper safety precautions and limit your time around them. 

What to Do If You Show Signs of Lung Cancer 

It is important not to worry yourself if you show signs of lung cancer. You should, however, always schedule an appointment if you show symptoms, as an early diagnosis dramatically improves your prognosis. When the tumor is small, it is much easier for doctors to treat it with surgery, chemotherapy, or other treatments. 

Furthermore, if you’re struggling emotionally after a lung cancer diagnosis, don’t hesitate to seek help for your mental health (such as counseling). It can affect more than just your physical health, after all, and staying positive is crucial. Consider that there are plenty of excellent support groups for people with lung cancer. Reaching out and attending one of those can help you feel less alone with your diagnosis. 

It is also vital to remember that a lung cancer diagnosis is not always a death sentence. Medical breakthroughs happen all the time, and the best healthcare professionals are always working hard to improve and create new treatments that tackle the condition.

  1. Warburg, Otto. “On the origin of cancer cells.” Science 123.3191 (1956): 309-314. ↩︎
  2. Bidwell, Jacob L., and Robert W. Pachner. “Hemoptysis: diagnosis and management.” American family physician 72.7 (2005): 1253-1260. ↩︎
  3. Panagopoulos, Nikolaos, et al. “Pancoast tumors: characteristics and preoperative assessment.” Journal of thoracic disease 6.Suppl 1 (2014): S108. ↩︎
  4. Barnes, Margaux J., and Wendy Demark-Wahnefried. “Importance of balanced diet and physical activity during and after cancer treatment in adolescent patients.” Clinical Oncology in Adolescents and Young Adults (2014): 13-20. ↩︎
  5. Siemiatycki, Jack, et al. “Listing occupational carcinogens.” Environmental health perspectives 112.15 (2004): 1447-1459. ↩︎

Last Updated on by laibaarif


Icy Health Editorial Team

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