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Lung cancer symptoms

The early symptoms of lung cancer may be a slight cough or shortness of breath, depending on which part of the lung is affected. As the cancer develops, these symptoms may become more severe or intense. Like many other types of cancer, lung cancer may also cause systemic symptoms, like a loss of appetite or general fatigue.

Metastatic lung cancer symptoms

Metastatic lung cancer symptoms depend on the part of the body to which the cancer has spread, as well as the size and location. Sometimes, metastatic disease may not cause any symptoms, though about 30 percent to 40 percent of people with lung cancer will have symptoms of metastases.

  • If the cancer has spread to the bones, it may cause bone pain, often in the vertebrae or ribs. Other symptoms include fractures, constipation or decreased alertness due to high calcium levels.
  • If the liver is affected, symptoms may include nausea, extreme fatigue, increased abdominal girth, swelling of the feet and hands due to fluid collection and yellowing or itchy skin.
  • If either the brain or spinal cord are affected, symptoms may include headache, blurred or double vision, difficulty with speech or seizures.

Paraneoplastic syndrome

In some cases, when lung cancer spreads, paraneoplastic syndrome can occur as a result of the body’s response to a tumor, rather than from the cancer itself. Paraneoplastic syndrome can cause symptoms to appear in other areas of the body, and awareness of these symptoms may help with diagnosing lung cancer.

Symptoms of paraneoplastic syndrome include muscle cramps, muscle weakness, elevation of calcium in the blood and clubbing, which refers to a change in the shape of the finger tips.

Diagnosing lung cancer? It's about time

Learning whether an abnormal spot is lung cancer or a benign mass can take weeks, even months of tests and evaluations. The wait can be unnerving, and scary. It can also have consequences on your health.

Expedited diagnostic programs, like the one now being offered at our Chicago-area hospital, can cut down the waiting time considerably. The Illinois hospital’s "rapid lung-nodule diagnostic" program begins working even before a patient arrives.

Is it possible to have lung cancer and not have symptoms?

Lung cancer may be present for months before any symptoms emerge.

Answering your questions about lung cancer

Lung cancer experts Dr. Bruce Gershenhorn and Dr. Jonathan Kiev took time out of their schedules last week to answer your questions during our Lung Cancer Facebook Chat.

Understanding cancer symptoms

These symptoms may be attributed to a number of conditions other than cancer. If you notice any cancer signs or symptoms, it's important to visit your doctor for an accurate diagnosis.

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Navigating a diagnosis of lung cancer

podcast mod

Dr. Bruce Gershenhorn discusses lung cancer and advances in treatment.