Lung cancer symptoms

Lung Cancer Treatment London

The symptoms someone with lung cancer experiences will greatly depend on the stage of cancer, i.e. if it is an early cancer, or an advanced cancer. Overall the most frequent symptoms are:

  • A persistent cough most/all of the time
  • Experiencing a change in a long-term cough, for example a cough you have had for over 10 years becomes painful
  • Feeling fatigued and short of breath doing daily activities
  • Coughing up blood alongside phlegm or mucus
  • Localised aches and pains around your chest or shoulder area
  • Recurrent chest infections
  • Loss of appetite
  • Constant tiredness
  • Unexplained weight loss (you have not been trying to lose weight through exercise or changing your diet)

It’s important to note that, as with many cancers, when cells first start to divide in an abnormal and uncontrollable manner this will have an effect on your body on a cellular/microscopic level before these issues become more severe and express themselves as symptoms. This means someone could be asymptomatic with an early stage lung tumour.

There are some rare lung tumours which can cause other symptoms, such as hormonal changes which can lead to numbness, pins and needles, dizziness and blood clots.

A Pancoast tumour is an uncommon type of lung cancer and has characteristic symptoms of intense shoulder pain which may radiate down the arm, alongside possible drooping of an eyelid on one side of the face with a constricted pupil.

Diagnosis of lung cancer

If you experience the symptoms mentioned above, you should arrange to see your GP and they will ask you to describe the history and characteristics of your cough, pain, fatigue or other symptoms. It is likely they will perform some basic tests, including measuring your blood pressure, heart rate, temperature and ask for your weight.

They may conduct a spirometry test, where you will be asked to breathe as hard and fast as possible into a tube to get some idea of your lung’s performance, and they may refer you to a specialist for further testing.

If you have symptoms which indicate that you could have lung cancer, the GP should arrange an appointment with a specialist within 2 weeks, and you may be asked to attend an emergency X-Ray which will support the medical team in finding any abnormalities. This urgent referral (<2 weeks) should be arranged particularly if you are over the age of 40, have 2+ of these symptoms or have a history of smoking and have 1+ of the below symptoms

  • A cough
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain in or around your chest
  • Recent weight loss
  • Loss of appetite

More extreme symptoms will also mandate an emergency X-Ray and referral.

Other Diagnostic Tests

There are a number of tests which a lung specialist may perform to determine whether someone has lung cancer, including:

  • A chest X-Ray
  • A CT scan, which is likely to follow an X-Ray to create a more detailed image of your body and lungs
  • Bronchoscopy, where a doctor will look inside your airways towards your lungs through a bronchoscopy tube with a light and small camera (this is normally done under a local anaesthetic and is a small surgical procedure)
  • Ultrasound scan, either an endobronchial ultrasound, neck lymph node ultrasound or ultrasound of the abdomen
  • A biopsy of the lung, where your doctor will pass a small needle into the lung and retrieve a sample of lung tissue to be analysed
  • An MRI scan to assess whether there is cancer present and if it has spread
  • A bone scan

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