John Stoddard Cancer Center
1221 Pleasant Street
Des Moines, Iowa 50309
Everyone should be aware of how his or her body normally feels and report any abnormal feelings to their doctor. Often, these unusual feelings can be attributed to other causes, such as bronchitis. But a doctor should check anything that is worrisome.
The signs and symptoms of lung cancer can take years to develop and they may not appear until the disease is advanced.
Some symptoms of lung cancer that are in the chest:
- Coughing, especially if it persists or becomes intense
- Pain in the chest, shoulder, or back unrelated to pain from coughing
- A change in color or volume of sputum
- Shortness of breath
- Changes in the voice or being hoarse
- Harsh sounds with each breath (stridor)
- Recurrent lung problems, such as bronchitis or pneumonia
- Coughing up phlegm or mucus, especially if it is tinged with blood
- Coughing up blood
If the original lung cancer has spread, a person may feel symptoms in other places in the body. Common places for lung cancer to spread include other parts of the lungs, lymph nodes, bones, brain, liver, and adrenal glands.
Some symptoms of lung cancer that may occur elsewhere in the body:
- Loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss
- Headaches, bone or joint pain
- Bone fractures not related to accidental injury
- Neurological symptoms, such as unsteadiness or memory loss
- Neck or facial swelling
- General weakness
- Blood clots
Many of these symptoms are non-specific, and could represent a variety of different conditions; however, your doctor needs to see you if you have any of these problems. Most patients (85%-90%) who are diagnosed with lung cancer have symptoms that prompt a doctor to order tests to look for a problem. A cough is the most common presenting symptom of lung cancer; however, many long term smokers have a chronic cough, so it is especially important for someone with a chronic cough to see their doctor if their cough changes in character or severity.
Any unusual symptoms should be reported to your doctor.