Symptoms of lung cancer
Early lung cancer often does not cause symptoms. But as the cancer grows, common symptoms may be experienced. It is important to note, that the following symptoms may also be caused by a medical condition that is not cancer. Possible symptoms of lung cancer include:
Lung cancer or lung tumors can cause serious complications and even death.
Collapsed lung (atelectasis) - A tumor can push the air out of the lungs and cause all or part of the lung to collapse. In this way, a lung tumor can prevent the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide by blocking the flow of air into the lungs, or by using up the space normally required for oxygen to come in and carbon dioxide to go out of the lung.
Death - Unfortunately, survival rates haven't improved for people diagnosed with lung cancer. In most cases, the disease is fatal. Almost 60 %, or three out of every five people, diagnosed with lung cancer die within a year. Keep in mind, however, that this number includes people diagnosed with all types of lung cancer at all stages of the disease. People diagnosed at the earliest stages have the greatest chances for a cure. Your doctor can discuss more relevant statistics about prognosis with you.
Fluid in the chest (pleural effusion) - Lung cancer can cause fluid to accumulate in the space that surrounds the lungs in the chest cavity (pleural space). Pleural effusion can result from cancer spreading outside the lungs or in reaction to lung cancer inside the lungs. Fluid accumulating in the chest can cause shortness of breath.
Hormonal imbalances - Rarely, a lung tumor can release hormones that result in chemical imbalances, such as low blood sodium levels or high blood calcium levels.
Metastases - Although lung cancer can metastasize (spread) anywhere in the body, the most common sites of spread are the lymph nodes, lungs, bones, brain, liver, and structures near the kidneys called the adrenal glands. Metastases (spread to more than one area) from lung cancer can cause further breathing difficulties, nausea, bone pain, abdominal or back pain, headache, weakness, seizures, and/or speech difficulties.
Superior vena cava syndrome – Characterized by swelling of the skin on the head, half thorax and the upper limbs, tumor masses may press over the vena cava heart vein and stop the blood from flowing to the heart.
When to seek help
If you are concerned about a lung cancer symptom - If you are concerned about a symptom on the list above, please talk with your doctor. Most often, symptoms of lung cancer are not due to cancer. Other health problems can cause some of these symptoms. Nonetheless, anyone who experiences symptoms should see a doctor to be correctly diagnosed and treated as early as possible
If you are at risk for developing lung cancer - People who think they may be at risk for developing lung cancer should talk to their doctor. The doctor may be able to suggest ways to reduce their risk and can plan an appropriate schedule for checkups.
If you have been treated for lung cancer - For people who have been treated for lung cancer, it's important to have checkups after treatment. The lung tumor may come back after treatment, or another lung tumor may develop.
Because the symptoms of lung cancer can be mistaken for other conditions, you need to consult your doctor for an accurate diagnosis. But where does diagnosis begin? And which doctor should you see first? Read here to learn how to diagnose lung cancer and avoid the effects of lung cancer.