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What Are the Symptoms of Lung Cancer?

woman coughing
A persistent cough is one of the symptoms of lung cancer.

You may not notice signs of lung cancer in its early stages. In fact, many lung cancers do not cause symptoms until they have already spread. Some are found through a chest X-ray or CT scan taken for other reasons.

When early lung cancer does cause symptoms, they’re often health problems you’d have anyway if you smoke. For example, some early signs of lung cancer include shortness of breath and the inability to exercise without feeling out of breath or coughing.

A tumor may be present for some time before any symptoms are noticed. These are some of the common symptoms of lung cancer, though each can be found in many other disease states, so they do not always mean cancer is present. Call your doctor if you notice any of the following:

  • Cough that doesn’t go away and gets worse over time

  • Chest pain that is constant

  • Hoarseness

  • Wheezing

  • Appetite loss or unexpected weight loss

  • Coughing up blood or rust-colored mucus

  • Breathing problems, such as a sudden shortness of breath or wheezing

  • Pneumonia or bronchitis occurring more than usual for you

  • Shoulder pain

  • Bone pain

  • Yellowing of skin and eyes (jaundice)

  • Headache, seizures, or confusion

  • Enlarged lymph nodes in the neck

  • Drooping eyelid

Illustration of  tumor types and location in the lung
Click to enlarge: Symptoms based on location of tumor

Remember: These symptoms may be caused by lung cancer or by other, less serious conditions. It is important to check with a doctor to be sure.

Online Medical Reviewer: Foster, Sara, RN, MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: newMentor board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: 11/26/2013
© 2013 Krames StayWell, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare provider's instructions.
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