What are the symptoms of lung cancer?

Neal Chuang, MD
Thoracic Surgery (Cardiothoracic Vascular)
The main symptoms of lung cancer are shortness of breath, cough, or chest pain, but by the time people develop these symptoms, it usually means that the cancer is advanced and no longer curable. Also, these symptoms are not specific to lung cancer and could be signs of other health conditions like colds or allergies. Because of this, the diagnosis of lung cancer can be delayed as the more common conditions are usually diagnosed and treated first, and it is when the person does not improve with treatment that further studies are ordered, which may then reveal the lung cancer.

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Lata C. Thatai, MD
Hematology & Oncology
Learn about the symptoms of lung cancer, which include cough, fatigue, weight loss, back pain and more. Watch this video with Lata C. Thatai, MD from Parkland Medical Center.
Winnie W. Lee, MD
Thoracic Surgery (Cardiothoracic Vascular)
Learn how healthcare providers diagnose lung cancer, a disease that often presents no symptoms. Watch this video with cardiothoracic surgeon Winnie Lee, MD from Los Robles Hospital & Medical Center.
Jay M. Lee, MD
Thoracic Surgery (Cardiothoracic Vascular)
The most common symptoms of lung cancer include the following: cough, blood in sputum (hemoptysis), change in breathing (shortness of breath or wheezing), chest pain, voice change (hoarseness), headache, weight loss, fatigue and swelling of the face or neck.
Jennifer L. Kemp, MD
Diagnostic Radiology
The most common symptom of lung cancer is to have no symptoms at all. Lung cancer is best treated when there are no symptoms. This is why it is recommended that patients who are at increased risk for lung cancer have annual screening with low dose chest computed tomography (CT). Late signs of lung cancer include shortness of breath, difficulty breathing and perhaps blood in spit and more.
 
Michael Chacey, MD
Pulmonary Disease
The most common symptoms of lung cancer include coughing up blood and unexplained pain or difficulty breathing. In this video, Michael Chacey, MD, explains the symptoms of lung cancer and when they occur during the course of the disease.
HealthyWomen
Administration
Lung cancer can cause a number of symptoms, including:
  • nagging cough
  • chest, shoulder or back pain, which feels like a constant ache and may or may not be related to coughing
  • shortness of breath
  • fatigue and weakness
  • weight loss
  • repeated episodes of pneumonia or bronchitis
  • coughing up blood
  • hoarseness (from left-sided tumors if the nerve that controls the left vocal cord becomes injured by the tumor)
  • swelling of the neck, face and arms (from a right-sided tumor pressing on the main vein that drains the upper body)
  • symptoms related to a cancer spread (metastasis), such as headache, backache or weakness
Other symptoms may occur from a hormonal or immune response of the body due to the presence of the cancer. This is called paraneoplastic syndrome. Examples include hormone imbalances, nervous system complications and kidney problems. The symptoms can occur regardless of the location of the tumor or its spread. Sometimes symptoms occur before cancer is diagnosed and leads to a search for cancer.
George A. Knaysi, MD
Surgery
Lung cancer remains the number one cause of cancer deaths in men and women. Early detection can lead to better outcomes, but it is particularly hard to find because most patients don’t experience symptoms.

However, symptoms of developing lung cancer may include:
  • A persistent cough, shortness of breath, wheezing or hoarseness
  • Constant chest pain
  • Coughing up blood
  • Repeated problems with pneumonia or bronchitis
  • Swelling of the neck and face
  • Loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss
  • Excessive fatigue
This content originally appeared on the HCA Virginia Physicians blog.
Lyall A. Gorenstein, MD
Thoracic Surgery (Cardiothoracic Vascular)
Symptoms of lung cancer include a persistent cough, shortness of breath, recurring respiratory tract infections, or a recurring cold. Many patients first see their doctor about a cold, cough, or possible pneumonia. More advanced symptoms may include blood mixed in sputum and unrelenting chest pain.
Conway Lien, MD
Neuroradiology
In this video, Imaging Medical Director Conway Lien, MD, of Regional Medical Center of San Jose, names three red flags that could indicate lung cancer.
Steven V. Gurland, MD
Internal Medicine
We usually see pulmonary symptoms as the presenting complaint of a patient with lung cancer. Cough,infection and bleeding are seen first. With the spread of the disease we see weakness, swelling, bone pain, and at times neurologic symptoms.
Most lung cancers do not cause symptoms until they have spread, but you should report any of the following problems to a doctor right away. Often these problems are caused by something other than cancer. But if lung cancer is found, getting treatment right away might mean treatment would work better. 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 blood or rust-colored sputum (spit or phlegm)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling tired or weak
  • Infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia that keep coming back
  • New onset of wheezing
Graham M. Bundy, MD
Thoracic Surgery (Cardiothoracic Vascular)
The symptoms of developing lung cancer may include:
  • a persistent cough, shortness of breath, wheezing or hoarseness
  • constant chest pain
  • coughing up blood
  • repeated problems with pneumonia or bronchitis
  • swelling of the neck and face
  • loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss
  • excessive fatigue
William D. Bolton, MD
Thoracic Surgery (Cardiothoracic Vascular)
Many patients with lung cancer will have no symptoms. The most common symptoms of lung cancer include:
  • A cough that worsens over time or does not get better
  • Coughing up blood
  • Shortness of breath and wheezing
  • Hoarseness
  • Weakness or tiredness
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Constant arm or chest wall pain
  • Recurrent pneumonia
  • Swelling of the neck and head
The contents of this website are for informational purposes only and are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Nor does the contents of this website constitute the establishment of a physician patient or therapeutic relationship. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Penn Medicine
Administration
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
When lung cancer spreads to distant organs, it may cause:
  • Bone pain
  • Abdominal pain or chest pain
  • Weakness or numbness of the arms or legs
  • Headache, dizziness or seizure
  • Jaundice (yellowing) of the skin and eyes
  • Lumps near the surface of the skin, caused by cancer spreading to the skin or to lymph nodes in the neck or above the collarbone
Some lung cancers can cause a group of symptoms called syndromes. Most of these symptoms are likely to be caused by something other than lung cancer but should be checked by a doctor.
Lung cancer in the early stages often does not produce any symptoms. Many of the symptoms of lung cancer can be vague and variable, but when they occur in someone who is at risk, such as a heavy smoker, the suspicion for lung cancer should be raised. Most common symptoms include, but are not limited to, cough, bloody sputum, wheezing, shortness of breath, and a pneumonia that will not get better with antibiotics. Chest pain can also occur. The suspicion for lung cancer is higher when these symptoms are accompanied by weight loss, fatigue and loss of appetite. Other less common symptoms of lung cancer include difficulty swallowing, arm numbness and pain, and swelling in the face and arms. If lung cancer has already spread to other organs, headaches, nausea, seizures and bony pain may occur.
Good In Bed
Internal Medicine
Lung cancer is defined as a rapid, abnormal cell growth in the lungs and bronchial tubes, and is the leading cause of death from cancer. Close to 100,000 women and 114,000 men were estimated to have been diagnosed with it. So we urge you to be vigilant about any symptoms that pop up. If you've been suffering from a chronic cough, wheezing, or other breathing difficulties, you should get yourself checked out. If you're experiencing increased mucus production (ick), you should get yourself checked out. And while these symptoms can often be confused for side effects of the common cold, more serious symptoms include the coughing up of blood, chest pains, and recurrent pneumonia or bronchitis. In some cases, someone with lung cancer will also experience persistent hoarseness, difficulty swallowing, and back pain.
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The symptoms of lung cancer can include a cough that will not go away, traces of blood in coughed up fluid, pain in the chest, tiredness, weakness, and weight loss. In addition, people with a continuously present cough (i.e. smoker's cough) might experience changes in their cough.

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Lung Cancer Symptoms

Lung Cancer Symptoms

Lung cancer symptoms usually do not appear until after a tumor has started to grow or even spread. While symptoms vary from person to person, signs may include coughing up blood, back pain, repeated pneumonia or bronchitis, chest ...

pain, hoarseness and exhaustion. People with high lung cancer risk factors, such as smoking or a history of smoking, should consult with their doctor quickly if they experience these of other signs of lung cancer. Learn more about lung cancer symptoms with expert advice from Sharecare.
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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.