What are the Symptoms of Lung Cancer?

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Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States today. Approximately 157,500 current and former smokers are expected to succumb to this disease in 2015. Another 28,000 lung cancer deaths are expected for never-smokers.

The majority of lung cancer cases are caused by cigarette smoking, making it also the most preventable cancer we struggle with today.

Early diagnosis of lung cancer can be difficult because symptoms don't usually present themselves aggressively until the disease is in advanced stages.

If you experience any of the symptoms listed below, schedule a visit with your doctor to check them out.

Symptoms of Lung Cancer

  • A habitual cough which worsens over time
  • Constant chest pain
  • Coughing up blood
  • Shortness of breath, wheezing, or hoarseness
  • Continual problems with bronchitis or pneumonia
  • Fatigue
  • Swelling of the face and neck
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unintentional weight loss

It is rare for a person to receive a diagnosis of stage 1 lung cancer, but that is what happened to ex-smoker, Dee. 

Diagnosed with Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer- Dee's Story

In her personal account, Dee details the symptoms of lung cancer that led her to seek medical attention which helped her survive due to an early diagnosis.

Low-Dose CT Scan for Lung Cancer

Following positive results of a large study looking at the efficacy of using low-dose radiation CT scans to check high risk patients for early signs of lung cancer, current and former smokers can now opt to have this scan once a year.

If you meet the criteria, you might qualify for a free annual exam, paid for by your insurance company. If not, you can choose to pay for the scan yourself. It typically costs about $300.

There are risks associated with CT scanning for lung cancer - false positives that might prompt invasive measures and radiation exposure being of the most concern.

However, if you were a long-term smoker, the benefits might outweigh the risks. Have a discussion with your doctor about the pros and cons for you specifically, and go from there.

The Bottom Line

Lung cancer is such a deadly cancer because it's stealthy. Symptoms are often subtle or missing entirely when the disease starts, making an early diagnosis difficult.

That said, try to be alert to changes in how your body functions or feels and consider getting yearly lung cancer CT scans if you qualify for them.  It is one way that you can be proactive and perhaps catch this cancer if it does start before it has a chance to hurt you.


National Cancer Institute. Lung Cancer. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/lung

American Cancer Alliance. 2015 Lung Cancer Facts. http://www.lungcanceralliance.org/2015%20General%20Lung%20Cancer%20Fact%20Sheet%20%20.pdf

National Institutes of Health. Estimating Long Term Effectiveness of Lung Cancer Screening in the Mayo CT Screening Study. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18458247?ordinalpos=21&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum

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