When people think of cancer, they often first wonder about the symptoms. Symptoms can be the first signs of concern, and can motivate people to see their doctor and undergo testing. Lung cancer symptoms are signs of a potentially deadly disease and deserve attention when they occur.
The symptoms of lung cancer are the same regardless of the cause. This means asbestos lung cancer symptoms are the same as lung cancer symptoms caused by smoking. Millions of Americans were exposed to asbestos during the 20th century, leading to diseases like mesothelioma and lung cancer. Even today, close to 10,000 people are diagnosed with asbestos lung cancer each year.
You should know the symptoms of lung cancer to react appropriately if you experience any. Even before experiencing symptoms, you can get screened for lung cancer. You should consider screenings if you have a history of asbestos exposure or a history of smoking.
The main symptoms of lung cancer are:
- Persistent coughing
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain from breathing, laughing or coughing
- Persistent fatigue or exhaustion
- Unexplained weight loss
- Recurrent episodes of pneumonia
- Swollen glands in the chest
All of these symptoms could be indicative of a tumor in or on the lung tissue affecting the respiratory system. Lung cancer can spread to other areas of the body beyond the respiratory system. Signs of lung cancer metastasis are:
- Back pain
- Headaches, dizziness, balance issues, seizures and other central nervous system problems
- Swelling of lymph nodes in areas other than the chest
There are definable symptoms for each of the four lung cancer stages. Here is a breakdown of what you may experience in each stage, starting with stage 1 and ending with stage 4.
Stage 1 Lung Cancer Symptoms
The first stage of lung cancer is stage 1. The tumor is on or inside the lungs. There aren’t many stage 1 lung cancer symptoms because the tumor is so small and the impact on the body is limited. Some people don’t experience any symptoms.
Stage 1 lung cancer symptoms affect the respiratory system:
- Mild shortness of breath
- New onset of a persistent, unexplained cough
- Blood tinged sputum
Even if you have stage 1 lung cancer symptoms, it doesn’t mean you definitely have lung cancer. A few other health issues can cause these symptoms. If these symptoms persist for a few weeks, you should contact a medical expert. Your doctor will evaluate your specific symptoms and provide the most appropriate testing to determine the causes.
Stage 1 is split into two stages: 1A and 1B. These two substages do not differ in symptoms.
Stage 2 Lung Cancer Symptoms
Stage 2 is when most people with lung cancer begin experiencing symptoms. The tumor is large enough to affect the expansion of the lungs against the chest and disrupt respiratory functioning.
The most common stage 2 lung cancer symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Persistent cough
- Coughing up blood
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Chest pain from laughing
Stage 2 lung cancer is split into 2A and 2B. The symptoms don’t differ much between these substages.
Stage 3 Lung Cancer Symptoms
Stage 3 is the first advanced stage of lung cancer. The tumor is growing and spreading. Cells may have reached nearby lymph nodes or the lining around the lungs (pleura). There is also potential spread to other areas, such as the esophagus or heart.
Stage 3 lung cancer symptoms may include:
- Trouble breathing
- Often feeling winded and short of breath
- Wheezing sound when breathing
- Pain in the chest
- Hoarseness and lower volume of voice
- Weight loss
- Back pain (if cancer spread to spine)
- Headaches (if cancer spread to brain)
Stage 3 is split into 3A, 3B and 3C. The symptoms differ for each substage. Stage 3A lung cancer is limited to just one side of the body. A symptom would be chest pain on one side. Stage 3B is spread to the other side of the chest. Stage 3C has spread throughout the chest. A sign of stage 3C is small tumors in the sac around the heart.
Stage 4 Lung Cancer Symptoms
Stage 4 is the most advanced form of lung cancer. The tumor has spread far beyond the lungs. Cancer has metastasized to other areas of the body, such as the brain, spinal cord and more.
There are a lot of stage 4 lung cancer symptoms, and they are more severe than in other stages. For instance, chest pain is greater in stage 4 than stage 2. Trouble breathing and loss of breath also occurs more often in stage 4 lung cancer. Coughing and hoarseness also are stage 4 lung cancer symptoms, and they’ll be more noticeable and consistent than in earlier stages.
Other possible stage 4 lung cancer symptoms are:
- Jaundice (yellow skin)
- Bone pain
- Swollen lymph nodes around neck or collarbone
- Balance issues
- Muscle weakness
- Numb feelings
Sources & Author
About the Writer, Devin Golden
Devin Golden is the content writer for Mesothelioma Guide. He produces mesothelioma-related content on various mediums, including the Mesothelioma Guide website and social media channels. Devin’s objective is to translate complex information regarding mesothelioma into informative, easily absorbable content to help patients and their loved ones.
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