13 Symptoms of Lung Cancer

by HealthAfter50

Know what to look for

The early signs of lung cancer are sometimes subtle enough that they get overlooked. Tell your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms.

1. Red or rust-colored phlegm

Coughing up phlegm that is this color could indicate more than a common cold.

2. Wheezing

Difficulty breathing? Don’t ignore subtle changes to your respiratory system, including shortness of breath.

3. Fever

Sometimes an infection behind a tumor that is obstructing the airway produces a fever.

4. Enlarged lymph nodes

If the cancer spreads to surrounding tissue, it can lead to enlarged lymph nodes in the chest or neck.

5. Chest, shoulder, or arm pain

These sensations may mean cancerous cells have invaded the pleura (membrane covering the lungs) or other nearby structures.

6. Hoarseness

A rough voice could indicate that cancer has damaged some of the nerves in the throat.

7. Difficulty swallowing

Cancerous tissue that causes a narrowing of the esophagus may be to blame for this problem.

8. Neck and face swelling

Puffiness may mean a blockage of blood flow from the neck and the face to the heart.

9. Clubbing of the fingers

This symptom, when one or more fingernails start to curve downward and appear detached from the nail bed, is experienced by up to 30 percent of lung cancer patients.

10. Bone pain and fractures

This could mean that lung cancer has invaded the liver or bone marrow, where it can interfere with blood cell formation.

11. Seizures

Neurological symptoms such as seizures may indicate that cancer has spread to the brain.

12. Cushing's syndrome

Some lung cancer patients with small-cell tumors develop this syndrome, which produces complications like osteoporosis, hypertension, and face roundness.

13. Fatigue

Another potential complication of lung cancer is excessive blood levels of calcium, which can cause tiredness, muscle weakness, confusion, and drowsiness.

Meet Our Writer

HealthAfter50 was published by the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health, providing up-to-date, evidence-based research and expert advice on the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of a wide range of health conditions affecting adults in middle age and beyond. It was previously part of Remedy Health Media's network of digital and print publications, which also include HealthCentral; HIV/AIDS resources The Body and The Body Pro; the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter; and the Berkeley Wellness website. All content from HA50 merged into Healthcentral.com in 2018.