Health for All

Lung Cancer Symptoms You Need to Know

Lung Cancer Symptoms You Need to Know

Do you think you have lung cancer? What symptom does lung cancer produce? Here is a list of lung cancer symptoms.

Symptom 1 – Coughing a lot

Cough is the most common symptom of lung cancer. People with lung cancer will cough a lot and it will worsen over time. With people who don’t usually cough, coughing appears, and progressively worsens as well as with people that already have coughing problem, such as smokers or people who have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, they will notice that their coughing pattern has changed.

The cough is a reflex of the lungs which tries to sweep out the mucus and foreign bodies that have entered our body. As lung cancer grows in our body, it excites the receptors in our respiratory tube triggering the cough reflex. This irritation is constant and continuous, so our cough will be persistent throughout the day.

Symptom 2 – Blood Cough (Hemoptysis)

This blood can come from two sources:

  1. The tumour (lung cancer) breaks the small blood vessels that are responsible for bringing the oxygen and nutrients.
  2. The tumour has become so large until it broke the blood vessels.

In one way or another, when coughing, blood spots will come out with mucus and the amount of blood coughed will depend on the size of the blood vessel that was broken.

Symptom 3 – Shortness of Breath (Dyspnea)

Dyspnea is caused by the tumour obstructing the respiratory tubes. This means less air will enter due to the tube becoming more narrow than usual. This symptom will progressively worsen. At first it will only manifest when we are exercising and later on, we will have a hard time breathing even when we are resting.

Symptom 4 – Sounds When Breathing

People who are infected with lung cancers make sounds while breathing. They are usually high-pitched sounds, like whistles. These type of sounds can be heard in people with a centrally located lung cancer. It can be heard with stethoscope and if the tumour grows too much, it can be heard without any instrument.

Symptom 5 – Frequent Lung Infections

Lung cancer causes you to suffer many lung infections. There are bacteria in the whole body and the lung also contains them. If we are ventilating well, the amount of bacteria is stable but if a tumour grows, this will cause a zone of the lung to be less ventilated or even receive no air. This is a phenomenon called Atelectasis. In this situation, mucus and dead cells will accumulate inside the lung and breed bacteria which will end up causing pneumonia.

Symptom 6 – Chest Pain

Although the inside of the lung does not have receptors that collect pain information, if the tumour grows until it reaches the Pleura, lung cancer patients will feel pain in their chest. This pain usually happens when they breathe. Lung cancer can also grows and infiltrate some Thoracic Vertebra which means pain in the back may also appear.

Symptom 7 – Pleural Effusion and Dyspnea

Pleura is a membrane that covers both the lungs and the thoracic wall inside. It is responsible for producing and absorbing the pleural fluid. Pleural fluids helps in smoothening the friction between lungs and the ribs. Sometimes, lung cancer infiltrates pleura causing inflammation then slowing the absorption rate of the pleural fluid. This will cause dyspnea due to the presence of many pleural fluid in the lung.

Symptom 8 – Hoarseness

Hoarseness is the change of voice of the patient. This happens because one of the two vocal cords that we have, has been paralyzed.  The nerves responsible for the vocal cords to move are the recurrent laryngeal nerves. When the tumour reaches the left recurrent laryngeal nerve on its path and compresses or infiltrates the nerve, it may alter its function. When it stops working, the vocal cord on the left side will be paralyzed thus creating hoarseness.

Symptom 9 – Hiccups & Dyspnea

Hiccups in a patient with lung cancer may be triggered by the irritation of one of the two phrenic nerves innervating the diaphragm. This irritation will cause the phrenic nerve on one side to trigger electric impulses without any rhythm which then will move the diaphragm in a rhythmic way with respect to respiratory movements. If the infiltration due to the growing cancer completely cancels the function of one of the phrenic nerves this can produce the paralysis of half of the diaphragm, which will manifest as a difficulty to breathe thus creating dyspnea.

Symptom 10 – Difficult Swallowing

Difficulty swallowing occurs if the tumour of the lymph nodes infiltrated by cancer cells, compress the oesophagus as it travels through the mediastinum into the stomach. The oesophagus, which is a muscle tube, when is pushed and compressed from the outside, will not be able to transport the food we have swallowed into the stomach, so we will feel that the food we eat gets stuck in the chest.

Symptom 11 – Pericardial Inflammation

Pericardial inflammation is when you begin to notice punctures in the centre of the chest. The pericardium is a membrane that is covering the heart, so lung cancer that grows into the mediastinum can infiltrate it. This infiltration makes the pericardium inflamed (a phenomenon called “pericarditis”), and fills it with fluid. When this happens, we may feel a pain in the chest, such as a series of punctures and have difficulty in breathing (dyspnea). These symptoms cause a lot of anxiety in the person who suffers them and in most severe cases, the pericardium is filled with so much fluid that it doesn’t let blood enter the heart. If so, the heart won’t pump enough blood with oxygen into the body (Cardiac Tamponade) and can cause death.

Symptom 12 – Superior Vena Cava Syndrome

This syndrome will make your chest, arms and face swell. It is a set of symptoms that occur when lung cancer on the right lung grows towards the mediastinum and compresses the superior vena cava. The return of blood in the vein will be slower and more difficult, which may cause the swelling of the chest, the neck, the face, and even the arms. If the vena cava syndrome is severe, dilated veins can be seen through the skin as if they were the varicose veins of the legs.

Symptom 13 – Pancoast Syndrome

This syndrome will make you begin to notice strange sensations in one arm. The Pancoast syndrome is caused by the involvement of the brachial plexus on its path from the neck to the arm. The brachial plexus is the bundle of nerves that comes out of the spine at neck level on both sides. This brachial plexus deals with sensitivity and movement of each arm thus when lung cancer infiltrates these nerves of the brachial plexus, left or right, it can produce irritating symptoms in the nerves that carry the sensitivity of the arm, resulting in rare sensations (called paresthesias) or pain, typically located in the arm, forearm and fingers 4th and 5th of the hand. This will make the muscles get thinner, leaving one arm thinner than the other.

Symptom 14 – Horner Syndrome

This syndrome will make one of your eyes more closed and sunk than the other. Horner’s syndrome is due to the involvement of the sympathetic lymphatic chain namely the upper cervical ganglion. When the lung cancer grows upwards, reaching the lower part of the neck, it will cause:

  1. Ptosis (falling of the upper eyelid)
  2. Miosis (decreased pupil size)
  3. Enophthalmos (eye sunk in its orbit)
  4. Anhydrosis (sweating of the face on the side of the tumour)

Symptom 15 – Carcinomatous Lymphangitis

This symptom will make you progressively cough more and breathe worse. When the lymphatic vessels inside the lung are filled with cancerous cells a serious clinical syndrome can occur called carcinomatous lymphangitis. Dyspnea, irritative cough and decreased amount of oxygen carried by blood will occur inside of your body.

Symptom 16 – Losing Weight

Lung cancer patient will lose weight, and progressively run out of muscle when the amount of tumour, whether inside or outside the lung itself, is very large. This is due to two reasons:

  1. The competition between the cells of the lung cancer and normal cells for the nutrients that come from the foods we eat.
  2. The appearance of a metabolic syndrome, the anorexia-cachexia syndrome, which causes weight loss even though we are eating well.

Symptom 17 – Metastasis

Metastasis is when the cancer travels to other organs of the body. When lung cancer cells decide to enter a blood vessel either from the lung itself or one of the vessels that makes the cancer receive the food and oxygen necessary for their cells to divide, these tumour cells travel throughout the body. On that trip, they can choose the area where they want to stay, and when they get there. They will leave the blood vessel and establishing their residence, multiplying and increasing in size.

In lung cancer, the sites where cancer cells prefer to go and live are brain, bones, the adrenal glands, the other lung, liver, and kidneys. In all these sites, when the group of tumour cells is very large, symptoms will appear such as blood in the urine and clots in the bladder depending on where the tumour resides.

If you face any of the symptoms and have yet to check them out by a medical profession.

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