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Lung Cancer Warning Signs: 5 Common Symptoms

Lung Cancer Warning Signs: 5 Common Symptoms

Nov 23, 2022

Lung cancer causes more deaths annually than breast, colon and prostate cancers combined. Understanding the symptoms of lung cancer can help ensure you seek early treatment. Here are five possible symptoms of lung cancer that you shouldn’t ignore. 

Portrait of Sick Young African Woman Coughing

1. A cough that worsens or doesn’t go away 
“A common symptom of lung cancer is a chronic cough that won’t go away,” said Charles Shieh, M.D. thoracic surgeon and director of Inspira’s Lung Cancer program. “If you’ve had a cough that’s lasted for several weeks, make an appointment with your doctor to figure out the root cause.” You should also talk to your doctor immediately if you notice changes to your cough, including increased frequency, or if it produces blood or large amounts of mucus. 

2. Shortness of breath
Shortness of breath happens when you’re not getting enough oxygen into your lungs, leaving you feeling like you need to breathe deeper or faster. Frequent, unexplained instances of shortness of breath can signify lung cancer, but it can have other causes, including exercising, altitude, a sedentary lifestyle, asthma or anxiety. 

3. Wheezing 
“Wheezing is a high-pitched whistling sound that occurs when you inhale or exhale,” said Dr. Shieh. “It’s caused by the constriction of air passages, which affects your airflow.” Wheezing has many causes, some of which are easily treatable. However, it can also be a sign of lung cancer, so it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor to determine the root cause. 

Male nurse helping sick elderly woman with chest pain

4. Chest pain 
Cancer tumors in the lungs can press against your nerves, causing pain in your chest when breathing, laughing or coughing. Chest pain may also occur if cancer metastasizes to other parts of the body, including the lung lining, chest wall or ribs. 

5. Unexpected weight loss
Ten or more pounds of unexplained weight loss can signify illness or cancer. Weight loss can happen due to cancer cells using up energy or changes in how your body uses energy. Talk to your doctor right away if you experience unexplained weight loss. 

“Catching lung cancer before it’s in an advanced stage increases the likelihood of treating and beating the disease,” said Dr. Shieh. “If you experience these symptoms or have risk factors for lung cancer such as smoking, talk to your doctor about getting screened.” Lung cancer screenings offer hope for early detection since the disease doesn’t always present noticeable symptoms in its early stages. Free screenings are available for eligible patients who are uninsured or underinsured. 

Inspira’s multidisciplinary lung cancer treatment team can support you throughout your treatments, tests and procedures. Learn more about our support services and our lung cancer screening program. 

Inspira Health is a high reliability organization (HRO), which means safety is the top priority for patients and staff. To make an appointment, call 1-800-INSPIRA.

Topics: Lung Cancer, Cancer Care