Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women (one in four). The earlier lung cancer is diagnosed, the more effective treatment is, so see your doctor if you notice any of the following lung cancer symptoms:
Coughing up blood
“Coughing up blood is never a good sign. See your doctor right away,” says Raja Flores, MD, professor of thoracic surgery at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.
Be aware of new and persistent chest, back, or shoulder pain. You may notice tightness or sharp pain when you take a deep breath, cough, or laugh. “It hurts where the tumor is,” said Dr. Flores. “If the tumor is on the side, it hurts on the side. If it goes to the back of the chest, it hurts the back,” he said. You should see a doctor for any chest pain, he said. Chest pain can be a sign of a heart attack.
A cough can be caused by something as simple as allergies, a cold, or the wrong thing to do. But if your cough never goes away, it could be a sign of a more serious condition, such as lung cancer. “Cancers of the respiratory tract can irritate your throat and cause you to cough,” says Dr. Flores. “There’s something there that shouldn’t be there and your body is trying to get rid of it.” Cancer also produces mucus, which makes the cough worse.
Shortness of breath
If you suddenly feel winded after climbing the stairs and have shortness of breath while walking every day, this could be a sign of lung cancer. “Difficulty of breathing can occur due to a tumor blocking the airways. It also occurs due to fluid accumulation in the chest, compression of the lungs, and lack of air,” said Dr. Flores. Difficulty breathing while sitting or lying down can be a sign of a more complex condition when the lungs are not getting enough air when they are fully inflated, he said.
If you feel tired but there are no changes in your daily life, it could be a sign of cancer. “It may not be specific to lung cancer, but it’s a bright red flag that something is wrong,” Dr. Flores said. Weight loss and loss of appetite are symptoms of lung cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. Smoking, family history of cancer, and exposure to asbestos increase the risk of lung cancer.
Diagnosis of asthma
Having asthma does not guarantee lung cancer. However, if you’ve been diagnosed with asthma since childhood, it’s a good idea to get screened for lung cancer, says Dr. Flores. “It’s an unusual symptom, but if you’re young or older and have been diagnosed with asthma, it’s something you should keep in mind,” he said. “Pulmonologists listen to your lungs, listen for wheezing, and treat asthma; But it’s worth getting tested to make sure there aren’t any tumors that could be causing the blockage.”
General body aches
Because lung cancer often has no symptoms until it is too late, it is not diagnosed until it has spread to other parts of the body. Headaches, dizziness, loss of balance, and numbness in the limbs may indicate that the tumor has spread to the brain or spinal cord. Yellowing of the skin and eyes can be a sign of spread to the liver, and a lump on the body means the disease has spread to the skin or lymph nodes, according to the American Cancer Society.