Lung cancer symptoms vary from person to person. Early on in the disease, people with lung cancer may not have any symptoms. Often, symptoms are easily confused with common respiratory illnesses such as bronchitis or pneumonia, delaying an accurate diagnosis.
If you have symptoms of lung cancer, they may include:
- A cough that does not go away and gets worse over time
- Constant chest pain, often made worse by deep breathing, coughing, or laughing
- Arm or shoulder pain
- Coughing up blood or rust-colored phlegm
- Shortness of breath, wheezing, or hoarseness. This can happen when a lung tumor blocks major airways within the lungs. Lung cancer can also lead to the accumulation of fluid in the chest cavity (pleural effusion), which can make it harder for the lungs to expand fully.
- Repeated episodes of pneumonia or bronchitis
- Swelling of the neck and face. This occurs when the tumor compresses a large vein, the superior vena cava, that moves blood to the heart from the head and arms
- Loss of appetite and/or weight loss
- Feeling weak or tired
- Widening of the fingertips and nailbed also known as “clubbing.” This symptom is common in non-small cell lung cancer cases, but rare for small cell lung cancer.
If lung cancer spreads to other parts of the body, it may cause:
- Bone pain
- Arm or leg weakness or numbness
- Headache, dizziness, or seizure
- Balance problems or an unsteady gait
- Jaundice (yellow coloring) of skin and eyes
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck or shoulder
These symptoms do not always mean you have lung cancer. However, it is important to discuss any lung cancer symptoms with your doctor, since they may also signal other health problems. In rare cases, lung cancer can be passed down from one generation to the next. Genetic counseling may be right for you. Visit our genetic testing page to learn more.
Some people have an elevated risk of developing lung cancer. Review the lung cancer screening guidelines to see if you need to be tested.
Behavioral and lifestyle changes can help prevent lung cancer. Visit our prevention and screening section to learn how to manage your risk.
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