Lung cancer begins in the lung tissues, typically in the cells that line the air passages. With one of the highest cancer mortality rates in the country, the causes and risk factors of lung cancer are continuously increasing. Though smokers have a higher chance of ending up with lung cancer, the incidence rates among non-smokers are increasing as well.
Hence, knowing the symptoms beforehand and taking immediate action if you notice any of them among yourself or your loved ones can help in early diagnosis and treatment.
7 Common Symptoms of Lung Cancer
1. Persistent cough: One of the earliest and most common symptoms of lung cancer is a cough that does not go away or gets worse to resemble a chronic “smoker’s cough”.
Cough is present in 50 to 75 percent of lung cancer patients at the time of presentation.
2. Coughing up blood: If you notice the phlegm or spit is rust-coloured, or if you are coughing up blood, it is important to see your doctor right away.
3. Chest pain: Pain in the chest that gets worse with coughing, laughing or deep breathing, is another common symptom of lung cancer.
4. Shortness of breath: Shortness of breath is a common symptom in patients with lung cancer at the time of diagnosis, occurring in approximately 25 to 40 percent of cases. Dyspnea is the medical term used for shortness of breath. Since shortness of breath can also be due to many other diseases, consulting your doctor is the best way to know the reason for your breathlessness.
5. Loss of appetite: While loss of appetite can be a symptom of many other illnesses, if it is accompanied by any of the other symptoms such as coughing or chest pain, it can be an indication of lung cancer.
6. Unexplained weight loss: The medical term for loss of appetite is anorexia, while unintentional weight loss due to malnutrition is called cachexia. These two terms are combined into ‘cancer anorexia-cachexia syndrome’ or CACS. Substantial weight loss is seen in close to 60% of lung cancer patients at the time of diagnosis. Cachexia is diagnosed when a patient unintentionally loses more than 5% of their body weight over six months.
7. Wheezing and/or persistent lung infections: Wheezing is a condition where a whistling noise is produced while breathing. According to estimates, respiratory symptoms including wheezing, cough, shortness of breath and coughing up of blood are experienced by more than 40% of lung cancer patients. Lung infections such as pneumonia or bronchitis, if recurring, may be indicative of lung cancer.
Symptoms of Advanced Lung Cancer
The following are some of the symptoms of advanced lung cancer:
- Hoarseness or changes in voice
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Severe shoulder or arm pain
- Spread to the liver causes yellowing of eyes, deep-colored urine, fullness in the abdomen
- Spread to the bone causes bone pain
- Spread to the brain causes vomiting, headache, seizure
If you or your loved one is experiencing one or more of the above symptoms, it is advisable to consult your doctor to find out details on the possible causes. To know in detail about lung cancer – the causes, stages and treatment options, read ahead. If you are diagnosed with lung cancer and looking for advice regarding the best treatment options, our care managers and expert oncologists are here to guide you.