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What are the early symptoms of lung cancer?

Early lung cancer will not have any symptoms. This is why patients who have increased risk factors for lung cancer should be screened with a computed tomography (CT) scan. This is similar to how mammography screens for asymptomatic breast cancers.

Most lung cancers do not cause symptoms until they have grown locally or spread. Any of the following problems should be reported to a doctor. Often these symptoms are caused by something other than cancer, but if lung cancer is found, getting treatment right away can help prevent it from spreading and/or increase the chances of it being cured.
The most common symptoms of lung cancer are:

  • A cough that does not go away
  • Chest pain, often made worse by deep breathing, coughing or laughing
  • Hoarseness
  • Weight loss and loss of appetite
  • Coughing up bloody or rust-colored sputum
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Recurring respiratory infections, such as bronchitis and pneumonia
  • Wheezing that did not previously exist
Dr. Daniel W. Ray, MD
Pulmonary Disease Specialist

For the most part, early stage lung cancer is asymptomatic. Symptoms like a new cough, blood in the sputum, weight loss or chest pain signify an advanced lung cancer. There is no way of knowing that you have an early stage lung cancer because you won’t feel it. There will be no signs or symptoms.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.