As with virtually any disease, the symptoms of lung cancer can overlap those of numerous other conditions. However, anybody can watch out for several common signs associated with this issue.
Coughing is a common behavior that we do spontaneously when anything irritates the airways. However, a new cough that persists for a few weeks in the absence of a cold should be checked out. That is especially true for those with a history of smoking and/or cancer in the immediate family. Such coughs can get worse over time, again not leading to any specific diagnosis. To obtain a definitive diagnosis requires a doctor.
What are the Symptoms of Lung Cancer Disease
Any rupture in the blood vessels along the airways can result in the coughing up of blood. However, it can also be completely irrelevant, since a lesion in the throat or sinuses may be the root cause. Nevertheless, lung carcinomas, as they are called, are a common result of hemoptysis and occur in a large percentage of cases.
Prolonged Coughing Producing Chest Pain
Chest pain in the absence of coughing is also cause for concern. It may be simple heartburn, and often is. It may be unrelated to lung tumors, produced by an incipient heart condition. Nevertheless, the pain produced by lung tumors tends to be dull and persists over weeks. Since it occurs in about 25% of patients, it is one more suggestive piece of evidence. As one of the common symptoms of lung cancer, it should be reported to your doctor.
Shortness of Breath and Wheezing
As tumors spread they can block airways and produce fluid in the lungs, a condition known as ‘pleural effusion’. Wheezing can result from inflammation that often accompanies lung cancer. Unfortunately, here again, these two symptoms of lung cancer can occur with a variety of diseases and only a professional diagnosis can say which is responsible.
Similarly, respiratory infections can result from bacteria, fungi, and other invasive organisms in the pulmonary system. However, repeated infections that persist, as occurs in bronchitis or pneumonia, are often the result of underlying lung carcinomas.
Symptoms of Lung Cancer Metastasis
Since cancers can spread, a process called metastasis, tumors that begin in the bronchi can produce other symptoms as they spread and affect other organs. Bone pain in the vertebrae, for example, can occur when tumor cells migrate into the soft material inside bones. Lung cancer that spreads to the brain can affect vision.
Nevertheless, self-diagnosis can be misleading. Lung cancer, even when it spreads through the lymph system to affect other areas, may produce no symptoms at all. Metastasized tumors may grow in the adrenal glands or the liver, yet produce no symptoms until long after other areas are affected. Whether the signs become obvious depends greatly on how large those tumors become.
Indeed, about 25% of patients in whom cancer is found have no symptoms of lung cancer at the time of initial diagnosis. The carcinomas are often discovered only as part of a chest x-ray or other routine procedures. As such, it is important that regular check-ups include x-rays and other work, especially for those who smoke and/or have a history of cancer in the family.