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Do lung cancer symptoms come on suddenly?

Lung cancer is the most common form of cancer across the world with the highest number of cancer-related deaths. According to data, lung cancer accounts for around 5.9% of all cancer cases in India and 8.1% of cancer-related deaths. With such a high number of deaths due to lung cancer, it is important to know how lung cancer can be detected at an early stage.

In this article, let us discuss some of the early symptoms of lung cancer that you can easily notice and be alert about.

What are the early signs of lung cancer?

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), lung cancer is generally asymptomatic, that is, it does not cause any symptoms in your body until it has spread to other body parts. However, in some cases, there can be subtle signs and symptoms of lung cancer occurring at an early stage. The first signs of lung cancer can be due to lung cancer or some underlying medical condition. What Are The 7 Signs Of Lung cancer?

Sudden weight loss

Unintended weight loss which is sudden and without any clear explanation can be a common early sign of lung cancer. According to a study done in 2017, 34.1% of the adults diagnosed with gastrointestinal or lung cancer experienced sudden, unexplainable weight loss before the lung cancer diagnosis. It was also reported that sudden weight loss before cancer treatment is associated with a lower survival rate.

Weight loss in cancer can occur due to several reasons:

  • Changes in the proper functioning of the immune system
  • Loss of appetite
  • Hormonal fluctuations
  • Changes in body metabolism
  • Certain side effects from radiation therapy like difficulty in swallowing can decrease weight
  • Side effects of chemotherapy like vomiting and nausea can also decrease weight
  • Decreased ability of the body to absorb nutrients

Shortness of breath

Wheezing and shortness of breath are also some common early signs of lung cancer. You might face difficulty in catching your breath if you have lung cancer. Shortness of breath may or may not be accompanied by a cough.


If you have a slight cough that is persistent for 2-3 weeks, it may be an indication or symptom of lung cancer. The cough is widely misdiagnosed as a side effect of smoking. However, it is also important to note that coughing is not always a sign of the progression of lung cancer. The presence of blood in a cough can also be due to lung cancer or other medical conditions related to the lungs.

General fatigue

One of the most common lung cancer symptoms is general fatigue. If the fatigue is severe, it can interfere with your daily body functioning. The several reasons why fatigue is caused by lung cancer are:

  • Deficiency of red blood cells, that is, anemia
  • Tumor development
  • Pain
  • Trouble in sleeping
  • Malnutrition

Chest, shoulder, and back pain

Due to lesser nerve endings in the lungs, you often do not feel any pain or other early lung infection symptoms. However, when lung cancer reaches the walls of your chest, it may cause you pain. The progression or growth of the tumor leads to pain in your chest, arm, and neck. The pain in your chest may become even more prominent when you laugh or cough.

Hoarse voice

You may develop a raspy, hoarse voice due to lung cancer. However, it is a symptom of other respiratory diseases as well. The hoarseness in voice occurs when the tumor reaches the laryngeal nerve located within the chest. The compression of this nerve paralyzes the vocal cord causing a change in voice.

Finger clubbing

Finger clubbing is a group of symptoms that develop in your fingers and toes. However, it is a very rare symptom of lung cancer. It occurs in around 5-15% of lung cancer cases only. The most probable reason for finger clubbing is the reduced flow of oxygen through the blood which may lead to changes in tissue.

The following are the symptoms included in finger clubbing:

  • Rounded and large fingertips
  • More pronounced curves
  • Curved fingernails

Horner syndrome

Apart from shoulder pain, tumors developing in the upper lungs can also cause a condition known as Horner syndrome. Horner syndrome is generally caused when the nerves that reach your face and eyes are affected. Horner syndrome is a rare condition. People affected with this condition can have partial ptosis, miosis, or facial anhidrosis. Further development of cancer can lead to several other eye problems like pain, blurriness, and vision loss. The symptoms of Horner syndrome include:

  • The smaller size of the pupil
  • Drooping upper eyelid
  • Reduced facial sweating


Hypercalcemia refers to the condition of high calcium levels in the blood. It can be caused due to the hormones that are released by the tumor. These hormones affect the formation of the bone and calcium absorption as well. Hypercalcemia is caused due to several other reasons as well. Signs that you have hypercalcemia include:

  • Stomach pain
  • Frequent urination
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Increased thirst
  • Dizziness

Are the symptoms of lung cancer different in males and females?

The symptoms of lung cancer in men are the same as the symptoms of lung cancer in women. Thus, males and females have the same symptoms of lung cancer. Squamous cell lung cancer is more common in males than in females. This is because squamous cell lung carcinoma develops in people who smoke. According to the statistics men smoke more than women, thus, squamous cell lung carcinoma is more common in males. Adenocarcinoma is a more common type of lung cancer found in females. Also, squamous cell carcinoma develops directly in the airways, while adenocarcinoma develops on the outer edges of the lungs. This enables the symptoms of lung cancer to develop earlier in males than in females. However, the symptoms of lung cancer remain the same in males and females. What Are The Symptoms Of Lung Cancer.

At the end

Lung cancer is a very common cancer in India. The diagnosis of lung cancer at an early stage can help in providing effective lung cancer treatment in india. Lung cancer is curable at an early stage. Therefore, now that you know the most common signs of early lung cancer, make sure that you meet a doctor whenever you notice these symptoms in yourself.

People also ask

1. Does lung cancer develop quickly?

Yes, lung cancer is one of the rapidly developing cancers having a doubling time of less than 183 days.

2. What are the warning signs of lung cancer?

Following are some of the warning signs of lung cancer:

  • Chest pain
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Presence of blood in cough
  • Wheezing
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Tiredness

3. How is lung cancer diagnosed?

A chest X-ray is generally done followed by CT- Scan and PET Scan to diagnose lung cancer

4. How to know if my lungs are healthy?

A spirometry test is done to know the health of your lungs. In this test, a spirometer is used where you need to blow out the maximum air with your maximum force.

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