Early Signs and Symptoms of Lung Cancer

Our lungs are considered one of our vital organs for a reason. These spongy, rather delicate organs work by providing oxygen to our blood and with it, our entire body. We need our lungs to survive, so when something attacks them, we should be at least a little concerned.

According to the Mayo Clinic, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States. It kills 1.3 million people each year, but despite what you may think, it’s not always a death sentence; at least not when you catch the symptoms early.

Those who are diagnosed early stand a 50-percent greater chance of survival than those whose cancer spreads to other parts of the body. The only way to achieve this, however, is to know the warning signs…

Labored Breathing

It’s understandable that a disease that affects your lungs will undoubtedly make you short of breath. Now, if you’re short of breath after jogging up a set of stairs, it’s probably more to do with a lack of exercise than anything serious. Then again, if you find yourself short of breath when performing even the most mundane activities, you might want to see a doctor. Not every incidence of labored breathing is a sure sign of lung cancer but those with a family history of the disease might want to pay more attention than others.


Being overly winded isn’t the only sign. Even those with normal breathing may want to pay more attention to the sound of their breath. If you happen to notice a whistling or wheezing when you breathe, you might have constricted, blocked, or otherwise inflamed airways; all of which are potential signs of something serious.

Wheezing can be benign and treatable like asthma or allergies, or it can be a sign that problems run much deeper. In either case, it’s important to see a doctor to confirm.

Stubborn Cough

Persistent, stubborn coughs could indicate a bronchial inflammation that is more than just allergies. Many patients report that this stubborn cough is worse at night and can cause them to lose sleep. This, in turn, can cause one to lose sleep, lose productivity, and become more anxious in their daily lives.

It’s also important to pay attention to what the cough sounds like. If it sounds particularly mucousy and involves you coughing up blood or any sort of rust-colored phlegm, it would be advisable to seek out the cause.

Chest Pain

Chest pain is one of the most common signs of lung cancer. Not the odd discomfort that you feel when breathing in, but something that you feel deep when you cough or laugh. If this pain doesn’t go away over time or in moments of rest, it could be a sign of lung inflammation or worse. In the case of cancer, this pain occurs when the growing tumor pushes against the surrounding lung tissue.

As with any cancer, lung cancer can spread and so can the pain. It can also metastasis in the bones, causing bone and joint pain; particularly in the hips or back.

Hand and Finger Pain

Even if cancer hasn’t spread to the joints or bones, you can still feel fatigue in some of these areas. The hands and fingers are prime targets for understanding early warning signs. It isn’t that the joints swell or that they aren’t getting enough oxygen either. It’s more complicated than that.

The skin on the palms can thicken, a symptom that is also associated with bone and stomach cancer, as well as lung cancer. This happens when the palmar skin cells are hyper-stimulated which causes them to proliferate and results in the buildup of thick, scaly white skin.

Shoulder Pain

Pain can also show up in the shoulders. This happens when a lung tumor grows so large it puts pressure on the nerves in the lungs and the armpit. The pain then shoots down the shoulder, the inner arm, and down into the hands. In cases such as these, the tumor has become so large that it is likely going to be difficult to treat. This pain can travel down to the rib cage and cause the lymph nodes to swell and the body to ache all over.