Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Symptoms & Signs
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What Are the Symptoms of Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer?
Non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC) may grow slowly over a period of time before symptoms develop. Tumors may interfere with the air passageways. The spread of the cancer into the lymph nodes or elsewhere in the body may bring about other conditions.
Common non-small cell lung cancer symptoms are:
- Persistent coughing, particularly without any known cause
- A cough the produces blood or red-colored phlegm (hemoptysis)
- Chest pain or painful breathing
- Difficulty breathing or a shortness of breath
- Fatigue or feeling unusually tired or weak
- Hoarseness or wheezing
- Frequent upper-respiratory infections, like bronchitis or pneumonia
- Bone pain
Related Conditions and Syndromes
Other areas of the body may be affected by either the spread or development of tumors. For example, a tumor that presses on a nerve or surrounding tissues may cause a condition to develop elsewhere in the body. In some cases, the cancer cells may release chemicals into the bloodstream that trigger certain reactions.
NSCLC may also cause the following:
Neurological Changes - Lung cancer may spread (metastasize) to the brain. This may cause headaches or even seizures. Numbness or weakness in the arms and legs may occur if a large tumor begins to press against a nerve. In other cases, the nerve passing from the upper chest into the neck, if compressed, may cause shoulder pain.
Lumps - In advanced stages the cancer may spread throughout the lymph nodes. Sometimes tumors near the skin surface may appear as lumps.
Horner Syndrome - Tumors may possibly cause nerve damage. Horner Syndrome is a particular set of symptoms associated with nerve damage. The symptoms often affect one side of the face causing a droopy eyelid and a reduction in the size of the pupil (the dark center of the eye). In addition, the affected side of the face may sweat less, or not at all, compared to the unaffected side.
Paraneoplastic Syndromes - Cancer cells may make chemicals that trigger other reactions. For example, developing tumors require blood to grow, and so the cancer cells produce a chemical that activates the formation of new blood vessels. In other cases, cancer cells may produce chemicals that may cause a group of symptoms that are collectively referred to as paraneoplastic syndromes. Some of these symptoms may include high blood calcium levels (hypercalcemia), excess bone growth or blood clots. Some of these symptoms, like blood clots, may be very serious and require medical treatment. Hypercalcemia, for instance, may cause confusion or more serious nervous system problems that could result in a coma.
Understanding the Symptoms of Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer
The symptoms of non-small cell lung cancer may be slow to develop. Thus, by the time the signs are recognized, the cancer may be in advanced stages. There may be another underlying problem causing these symptoms and syndromes. It is still important to seek medical treatment if you experience any persistent NSCLC symptoms, or if these symptoms cause pain.
Talk to your doctor if you have any of the known risk factors and think you may be developing some of these symptoms. Sharing knowledge of your risk factors and personal history will help your doctor determine the cause of your symptoms and may make early detection possible.
NOTE: These symptoms may be attributed to a number of conditions other than cancer. It is important to consult with a medical professional for an accurate diagnosis.
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