About 25 percent of people who have lung cancer will show no symptoms before they're diagnosed. Their cancer often is diagnosed from a routine chest X-ray or from a CT scan done for other reasons.
But most who are diagnosed with lung cancer do have signs and symptoms of the disease. Here are the more common ones.
Wheezing--a whistling sound made when someone with a constricted airway exhales--is a symptom of many lung conditions, including lung cancer. In cancer patients, wheezing can be caused by a tumor pressing on an airway.
If lung cancer has invaded a patient's esophagus, he or she may experience pain or difficulty while swallowing, This symptom, called dysphagia, can seriously affect the quality of life. One study of 391 people with lung cancer found that those who reported the most pain with swallowing had a greater chance of dying from the disease.
Lung cancer that has invaded nerve cells can cause a condition known as Pancoast's Syndrome. It's a type of shoulder pain that radiates down the outside of a patient's arm.
As with Pancoast's Syndrome, lung cancer that has affected the nerves can interfere with or even paralyze the vocal cords. This can cause patients to experience hoarseness when they speak.
About 25 percent of people who have lung cancer will experience chest pain. Lung cancer patients who have chest pain often describe it as a dull, persistent ache. It may also involve other areas around the lungs.
If you're a smoker who is suddenly experiencing a cough, or if you're a former smoker who suddenly develops a cough not related to a cold or other respiratory infection, you should see your physician. It could be a sign of lung cancer. Also, coughs that don't go away or that get worse over time can also be a sign of the disease.
Hemoptysis is the coughing up of blood. It is one of the most common symptoms of lung cancer. Experts say that if you cough up any amount of blood, you should see a doctor as soon as possible.
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