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Early Signs You Have Lung Cancer

An early detection is a key factor when it comes to chances of survival.
Over the next two decades, the most common cancers in America will change, according to a new report in JAMA Network Open—with lung cancer dropping from second to third most common. As with any type of cancer, early detection is a key factor when it comes to chances of survival. So what are the signs and symptoms to look out for? The most common symptoms of lung cancer, according to the American Cancer Society, are the following. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss this urgent news: Sure Signs You Have "Long" COVID and May Not Even Know It.


A Cough That Does Not Go Away or Gets Worse

Mature man coughing on color background

"The early symptoms of lung cancer may be a slight cough or shortness of breath, depending on which part of the lung is affected," according to the Cancer Center. "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 loss of appetite or general fatigue."


Coughing up Blood 

Man coughing covering mouth with a tissue

…or rust-colored sputum (spit or phlegm). This can happen with COVID patients, too. "What happens is, airway inflammation sometimes leads to a very fragile lining of the airways, and those small blood vessels, or capillaries, might be affected, causing blood to come out," Dr. Albert Rizzo, the chief medical officer of the American Lung Association, told the Today Show.


Chest Pain

Man having chest pain - heart attack, outdoors

This chest pain "is often worse with deep breathing, coughing, or laughing," according to the American Cancer Society.



woman suffering from pain in throat, touching her neck, empty space.

"Has your voice changed? Does it sound raspy? Are you hoarse? Has anyone pointed out that your voice sounds high-pitched? Vocal cords create sound by vibrating open and closed, but lung cancer can affect the nerve that triggers this movement," according to the Lung Cancer Association of America. "These changes in your voice could indicate lung cancer. But hoarseness or any changes in your voice are also commonly associated with many other conditions, such as laryngitis. You should make an appointment with your doctor to have any changes in your voice checked out."


Loss of Appetite

Displeased young woman doesn't want to eat her breakfast

"If you're living with lung cancer, you may, at times, experience a loss of appetite, as well as difficulty with chewing and swallowing," according to the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation. "This is very common, with up to 9 out 10 people with advanced cancer losing their appetite to some extent. Certain treatments can also have an impact on your appetite."

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Unexplained Weight Loss

weight loss

"Most people with cancer will lose weight at some point. When you lose weight for no known reason, it's called an unexplained weight loss," says the American Cancer Society. "An unexplained weight loss of 10 pounds or more may be the first sign of cancer. This happens most often with cancers of the pancreas, stomach, esophagus (swallowing tube), or lung."


Shortness of Breath

shortness of breath

"What causes shortness of breath with lung cancer?" asks Johns Hopkins. "Sometimes, lung cancer tumors grow in a way that blocks airways, put pressure on lungs or cause inflammation in the respiratory system. All of these situations can prevent your respiratory system from working properly, leading to problems getting in enough air."

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Feeling Tired or Weak

Portrait of young man felling depressed and desperate crying alone in sofa home suffering emotional pain and unhappiness

"In some people, fatigue is an early symptom of the presence of lung cancer. It is experienced by nearly all patients who undergo treatment for cancer: up to 90% of patients treated with radiation therapy and up to 80% of patients treated with chemotherapy report experiencing fatigue," reports



Doctor examining chest x-ray film of patient at hospital

….such as bronchitis and pneumonia that don't go away or keep coming back," says the American Cancer Society, can be signs of lung cancer.


New Onset of Wheezing


"Wheezing may be caused by pulmonary (related to the lungs) or cardiac (related to the heart) factors. Wheezing is a common cause of dyspnea, which is shortness of breath or difficulty breathing," says

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These Symptoms May Appear Only After the Cancer Has Spread


According to the American Cancer Society, unfortunately the majority of lung cancers do not cause any symptoms until they have spread, which was likely the case with Diamond. However, if you do experience any symptoms, the sooner you go to your doctor, the more likely your cancer will be diagnosed and an earlier stage and your treatment is more likely to be effective.

"Most of these symptoms are more likely to be caused by something other than lung cancer. Still, if you have any of these problems, it's important to see your doctor right away so the cause can be found and treated, if needed," they explain. Keep reading for other signs that signify it has spread.

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Other Signs That Signify Lung Cancer Has Spread

Mature man with gray hair having back pain while sitting on a couch at home

Additionally, there are other signs to look out for that could signify lung cancer that has spread to other parts of the body:

  • Bone pain (like pain in the back or hips)
  • Nervous system changes (such as headache, weakness or numbness of an arm or leg, dizziness, balance problems, or seizures), from cancer spread to the brain
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice), from cancer spread to the liver
  • Swelling of lymph nodes (collection of immune system cells) such as those in the neck or above the collarbone

Again, if you experience any of these symptoms, it is likely something other than cancer. However, being proactive about your health and ruling it out as a possibility is the smart thing to do. "Some people, unfortunately, go misdiagnosed for a long time because their symptoms are similar to other diagnoses such as pneumonia, allergies or a cold," adds the American Lung Association. "If you feel that something is wrong, be persistent with your doctor. You know your body best and being persistent could save your life." So remember that, and to get through life at your healthiest, don't miss these 13 Everyday Habits That Are Secretly Killing You.

Leah Groth
Leah Groth has decades of experience covering all things health, wellness and fitness related. Read more about Leah
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