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Lung Cancer Symptoms

It is important have lung cancer symptoms checked

Sadly the majority of people have no symptoms in the early stages of lung cancer and lung cancer symptoms will vary depending on how far advanced the cancer is and its position within the chest. The type of lung cancer has little impact. This page will give you a guide to the most common lung cancer symptoms but also discuss some symptoms that are less common. If you are concerned about any symptoms you may have, please contact us or your GP immediately.

General lung cancer symptoms

The most common lung cancer symptoms include:

  • Appetite loss
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • A persistent cough
  • A change in a long standing cough
  • Breathlessness or shortness of breath
  • Coughing up blood (phlegm with blood in it)
  • Aches or pains when breathing or coughing
  • Persistent chest infections that don’t respond
    to medical treatment

Lung cancer symptoms – coughing up blood

It should be noted that whilst coughing up blood (haemoptysis) usually presenting as phlegm with blood in it, is perceived as being a sure sign of lung cancer, this is not always the case. There are many reasons why people cough up blood that have nothing to do with lung cancer. The most common reason is chest infection. Additional causes include nosebleeds, occasionally bleeding in the throat, irritation in the airways (tracheobronchitis) or inflammation of the stomach or oesophagus. Whatever the cause, if you are coughing up blood you should consult your GP immediately to find out the cause.

Less common lung cancer symptoms

The following symptoms are less common and are usually associated with the more advanced stages of lung cancer. They include:

  • Difficulty when swallowing
  • A hoarse voice
  • Finger clubbing – changes to the shape of the fingers and fingernails
  • Swelling of the face and neck which may be due to obstruction of the venous drainage
  • Persistent pain in the chest and/or shoulder

Lung cancer symptoms – hormone symptoms

Paraneoplastic symptoms or paraneoplastic syndrome can occur with some lung cancers that release hormones into the bloodstream. This results in symptoms and signs that may appear to have little to do with the lungs and can include:

  • Numbness or pins and needles in the fingers and toes
  • Swelling of the breasts in men
  • Blood clots causing swelling in the legs (Thrombosis)
  • Muscle weakness
  • Dizziness or confusion
  • General weakness

Lung cancer symptoms - Pancoast syndrome

Lung tumours that arise in the upper part of either lung can invade the uppermost ribs and the nerves that run over them to reach the arms. This can produce severe and unremitting pain in the shoulder arm and neck. By invasion of the sympathetic chain of nerves in the upper chest they can also cause drooping of the eyelid and dilatation of the pupil with blurred vision (Known as Horner’s syndrome). This collection of symptoms is called Pancoast syndrome after the surgeon that first described it. This is a serious condition that will usually need a combination of surgery and radiotherapy to treat it. Often surgery is not possible. Therefore the early reporting of any of these symptoms is essential to maximise the chance of successful treatment.

Lung cancer diagnosis and advice

If you are worried about lung cancer then LungHealth UK can help. Our Lungcheck Lung Cancer Screening service is a simple blood test and risk assessment that can put your mind at rest and highlight any risk associated behaviour. If you would like to book an appointment, please contact us and we will be happy to help. You can find the nearest clinic on our clinics page.

Please also see our risk factors page where you can read more about what can increase your risk of getting lung cancer.

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