Most lung cancer does not cause any symptoms until it has spread, but some people with lung cancer do develop symptoms. If you see your doctor as soon as you notice symptoms, your cancer is likely to be diagnosed at an early stage and treated effectively.
Many of these symptoms are caused by something other than lung cancer. However, if you have any of these problems, it’s important to see your doctor right away so the cause can be found and treated if necessary.
The most common symptoms of lung cancer are:
The cough does not go away or gets worse
Coughing up blood or rusty sputum (tears, sputum).
Chest pain is often aggravated by deep breathing, coughing, or laughing
Loss of appetite
Unexplained weight loss
Shortness of breath
Feeling tired or weak
Infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia do not go away or come back
New shortness of breath
If lung cancer spreads to other parts of the body, it can cause:
Bone pain (back, hip, etc.)
From cancer spreading to the brain, changes in the nervous system (headaches, weakness in the arms and legs, numbness, dizziness, loss of balance, seizures, etc.)
Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice), cancer spreading to the liver
Swollen lymph nodes (collections of immune system cells) in the neck or upper collarbone
Some lung cancers cause syndromes, which are groups of unique symptoms.
Tumors in the upper part of the lung are sometimes called Pancoast tumors. These tumors are more likely to be non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) than small cell lung cancer (SCLC).
Pancoast tumors affect certain nerves in the eye and face, causing symptoms known as Horner’s syndrome.
Drooping or drooping of one upper eyelid
A small pupil (dark area in the center of the eye) in one eye.
Little or no sweating on one side of the face
Pancoast tumors sometimes cause severe shoulder pain.
Superior vena cava syndrome
The superior vena cava (SVC) is a large vein that carries blood from the head and arms to the heart. It passes through the right upper lung and lateral to the intrathoracic lymph nodes. A tumor in this area can compress the SVC and cause blood to back up in the vein. This causes swelling of the face, neck, arms, and upper chest (sometimes with blue-red skin). Also, if it affects the brain, it can cause headaches, dizziness, and changes in consciousness. SVC syndrome can develop slowly over time, but in some cases it can be life-threatening and requires immediate treatment.