Symptoms and Signs

The symptoms of lung cancer generally appear late and when diagnosed 10-15 per cent of the patients are completely asymptomatic.

It may happen that the diagnosis of lung cancer is made after the patient’s submission to a chest x-ray carried out for another reason.

Its symptoms are aspecific and may be confused with those of other respiratory diseases. The ability to recognise symptoms is important even though they often appear when the tumour is already at an advanced stage.

- COUGH is one of the most frequent symptoms in patients suffering from a tumour of the lungs. Frequently we are dealing with dry, irritative coughing caused by the tumour obstruction of airways. It may also be featured by the release of catarrh (sputum) or be a worsening of the usual ‘smoker’s cough’.

Other possible symptoms include:

- chest pain

- shortness of breath (dyspnoea)

- slow-resolution pneumonia notwithstanding an appropriate antibiotic


- release of blood in the catarrh

There are also other signs not directly related to the lung which often accompany the tumour disease such as:

- fatigue

- inappetence

- weight loss (not justified by a diet)

If lung cancer has already affected other organs, then organ-specific symptoms may appear such as:

- cephalalgia (headache), in case of brain involvement

- bone pain

- yellow painting of the sclerae (the white of the eye) or of the skin

Certain tumours of the lungs are accompanied by the production of substances leading to “paraneoplastic syndromes” which are characterised by a variety of symptoms and signs.

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