What are signs and symptoms of lung cancer?

A sign of lung cancer is a presentation noticed by another person – for example, coughing up blood or a having a persistent cough are common signs of lung cancer. A symptom is a feeling, such as fatigue or loss of appetite.

Lung cancer sometimes may not produce any signs and symptoms in the early stages or may appear in patients when the disease is already advanced.

How does lung cancer produce signs and symptoms?

Lung cancer begins when cells grow abnormally and form tumours in the lungs.

Signs and symptoms of lung cancer vary depending on whether the lung cancer has spread to other parts of the body, the size of the tumour and how much the tumour is affecting other organs in the body.

signs of lung cancer man coughing

Diagnostic tests and procedures to detect lung cancer include, physical examination, chest x-rays, imaging scans of the chest, bronchoscopy, mediastinoscopy and video-assisted thoracoscopy. Laboratory tests may be ordered to assess tissue samples, fluid removed from lungs, sputum (mucous coughed up from the lungs), blood or urine, if signs and symptoms suggest the existence of a lung cancer tumour.

Staging describes where the lung cancer is located, if it has spread and whether the tumour is affecting other parts of the body. Diagnostic and laboratory tests can be ordered based on the stage and type of lung cancer to help determine the treatment.

Non-small cell lung cancer is divided in to six stages; occult (hidden) stage lung cancer cells found in the sputum or fluid from the lung, and stage 0 (carcinoma in-situ) when the lung cancer cells have not spread to lymph nodes.  Stage 1A, and1B, stage 2A and 2B, stage 3A and 3B is when the tumour is increasing in size and spreading to nearby lymph nodes. Stage 4 is when lung cancer has spread to the opposite lung and other parts of the body.

Small cell lung cancer is divided into two types for treatment; limited stage is when the cancer is only in one side of the chest and possibly the lymph nodes and extensive stage when the cancer has spread to the opposite lung, lymph nodes and other parts of the body.

What are the common signs and symptoms of lung cancer?

There are other medical conditions that can have the same symptoms or signs as lung cancer and it’s important to encourage patients to visit their doctor for persistent symptoms for detection and diagnosis of lung cancer.

The most common signs and symptoms of early lung cancer are a persistent cough, coughing up blood in mucous or phlegm, chest discomfort or pain that is often worse with laughing or coughing, trouble breathing, a hoarse voice, feeling tired or weak, loss of appetite, wheezing and recurrent infections such as bronchitis.

The earlier lung cancer is detected, the more likely it is that treatment can successfully remove the cancer and prevent it from reoccurring.