One of the reasons that lung cancer is such a devastating form of cancer is that many of its early symptoms are nonspecific and vague. This allows the cancer to progress until it’s at an advanced stage and harder to treat.
For example, one of the symptoms of lung cancer is a cough, which can be a sign of many things, some of which are benign. In lung cancer, coughs are the result of tumors blocking the air passage. Another symptom of lung cancer is a constant, achy pain in the chest, which again, might be the sign of something else. Other symptoms of lung cancer can include recurrent bouts of bronchitis and pneumonia, shortness of breath, coughing up blood, swelling in the face and the neck, and hoarseness. The patient might also experience fever, wheezing, oddly shaped fingernails, and difficulty in swallowing.
As the cancer progresses, symptoms may arise that seem not to be related to the lungs. These symptoms arise because the cancer has spread and has begun to interfere with other organs, such as the kidneys, the adrenal glands (two glands that sit on top of the kidneys), the bones, the other lung, the pericardium, (the membrane that encloses the heart), and the brain. The symptoms of metastasized lung cancer can be weakness, pain, bone fractures, blood clots, unexplained bleeding, and headache.
Sometimes, the tumor in the lung produces hormones that result in other symptoms. Some lung cancers secrete a hormone that causes the levels of sodium in the body to drop precipitously. This can lead to a variety of symptoms, including mental confusion. The drop in sodium may even put the patient in a coma. Like other cancers, lung cancer can also cause the patient to lose their appetite, become fatigued, and lose weight.
Since the symptoms of lung cancer are so vague and can be caused by many other conditions, it’s important that the patient visit his or her doctor if these symptoms last for more than two weeks. The earlier lung cancer is diagnosed and treated, the better the outcome might be for the patient.