Virginia Commonwealth University

VCU Massey Cancer Center

Signs and symptoms

What are the symptoms of lung cancer?

The following are the most common symptoms for lung cancer; however, each individual may experience symptoms differently.

Lung cancer usually does not cause symptoms when it first develops, but they often become present after the tumor begins growing. A cough is the most common symptom of lung cancer. People with lung cancer also may experience the following symptoms:

  • Constant chest pain.
  • Shortness of breath. 
  • Wheezing. 
  • Recurring lung infections, such as pneumonia or bronchitis. 
  • Bloody or rust-colored sputum. 
  • Hoarseness. 
  • Swelling of the neck and face caused by a tumor that presses on large blood vessels near the lung. 
  • Pain and weakness in the shoulder, arm or hand caused by a tumor that presses on certain nerves near the lung. 
  • Fever for unknown reason.

Like other cancers, lung cancer can cause the following symptoms:

  • Fatigue. 
  • Loss of appetite. 
  • Loss of weight. 
  • Headache. 
  • Pain in other parts of the body not affected by the cancer. 
  • Bone fractures.

Other symptoms can be caused by substances made by lung cancer cells — referred to as a paraneoplastic syndrome. Certain lung cancer cells produce a substance that causes a sharp drop in the level of sodium in the blood, which can cause many symptoms, including confusion and sometimes even coma.

None of these symptoms is a sure sign of lung cancer. The symptoms of lung cancer may resemble another medical condition or problem. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.