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Signs and Symptoms of Lung Cancer

By eHealthIQ
Reviewed: July 21, 2016

Lung cancer is when cells reproduce uncontrollably within the lungs, and from there, these abnormal cells divide and multiply rapidly, causing tumors.

We know what it is, but how can you tell if you have lung cancer? What if your shortness of breath is something more than just being overweight? Here you’ll learn about the signs of lung cancer.

What are the signs and symptoms of lung cancer?

Signs of lung cancer usually don’t show until the later stages. Some people in the early stages will have symptoms, but it’s rare. If you go to the doctor early enough though, the cancer can be caught early and you’ll have more options for treatment. Common symptoms include:

  • Hoarsness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing up blood or rust-colored spit or phlegm
  • Persistent cough that never leaves or gets worse
  • Lethargy
  • Wheezing
  • Loss of weight and appetite
  • Constant bronchitis and pneumonia infetiosn that never seem to go away or keep coming back
  • Chest pain that worsens when you laugh,cough, or breath heavily

If cancer has spread to other organs, symptoms can also include:

  • Pain in the bones (back, hips)
  • Changes in nervous system (dizziness, balance issues, headaches, numbness in limbs), which happen when the cancer has spread to the brain and spinal cord
  • Jaundice, when the cancer has spread to the liver
  • Lumps on your body, when the cancer has spread to your lymph nodes or skin

Certain lung cancers can cause syndromes such as:
Horner Syndrome: A cancer on top of lungs (pancoast tumors) that can cause issues with the face and eyes that include:

  • Drooping/weak eyelid (only one)
  • Little to no sweating on same side of face
  • Smaller pupil with same eye
  • Severe shoulder pain

Superior Vena Cava Syndrome: The superior vena cava (SVC) is a large vein that carries blood from the arms and head back to the heart. It’s located next to the upper portion of right lung and lymph nodes in the chest. Tumors here can press on the SVC, causing blood to back up in the veins, causing:

  • Swelling in neck, arms, face, upper chest
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Changes in consciousness if brain is affected

Para-neoplastic Syndromes: Some lung cancers release hormone-like substances into the bloodstream and affect distant organs even if the cancer has not spread, and can sometimes serve as the first symptoms of lung cancer. Symptoms can range from headaches, to cognitive dissonance, down to gynecomastia (breast growth in men).

The signs of lung cancer are a serious matter that shouldn’t be taken lightly. If you have any of the symptoms above, go to the doctor immediately. Take care.

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