Lung cancer is one of the largest causes of death due to cancer. Hence, it is important to catch it early. Here is a discussion about the early lung cancer symptoms which one should be aware of for early detection, diagnosis and treatment.

According to statistics, it has been found that lung cancer ranks the highest in the cause of death from cancer, irrespective of gender. This is the reason it is important to know the early symptoms of lung cancer. It usually develops between the ages of 45-70. As a matter of fact, more and more women are falling prey to it since an increasing number of them have begun smoking.

When the cells of the lungs itself become malignant, it is known as primary lung cancer; but, lung cancer can also be caused due to cancer spreading from other areas of the body, which is known as metastatic cancer. This commonly spreads to the lungs from the skin, bone, testis, rectum, cervix, stomach, thyroid gland, kidney, prostate, colon, and breast.

Various Types

Over 90 percent of primary lung cancers begin in the bronchi, either of the two main branches of the trachea. This lung cancer is known as bronchogenic carcinoma, with the specific types being oat cell, or small cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, large cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma. Amongst these, the last three types are usually called nonsmall cell lung cancers.

A subtype of adenocarcinoma, known as alveolar cell carcinoma, has its origins in the alveoli, the tiny air sacs in the lungs. Lymphoma is a type of cancer that affects the lymphatic system, which can have its origins in the lungs, or spread to them.


One of the primary causes of lung cancer is smoking tobacco. The higher the duration and quantity of smoking, the higher the chances of developing lung cancer. In fact, it has been observed that about 10-20 percent of all smokers end up developing lung cancer. Even though nonsmokers also do get lung cancer, smokers are far more susceptible to it.

Once a person gives up smoking, it takes about 15 years for his/her chances of developing lung cancer to be come equivalent to that of a nonsmoker.

A few cases of lung cancers are caused by the substances breathed in or encountered at the workplace. For example, working with radiation, asbestos, chromates, arsenic, chloromethyl ethers, nickel, mustard gas, and emissions of coke ovens have been linked to some lung cancer cases. The chances of developing lung cancer are much higher in people who smoke and are also exposed to the above substances. Genetics and environmental pollution are also factors that are linked to lung cancer developing.

Early Symptoms

This disease can often be difficult to diagnose early because the first symptoms of lung cancer are often subtle, and when they do occur in a more severe form, it is too late because by then the disease has usually progressed to advanced stages.

In fact, it has been observed that in one-fourth of the cases where lung cancer has been diagnosed there have been no symptoms whatsoever, and it is usually identified due to an x-ray of the chest taken for some other reason. The rest of the three-fourths of the people do experience early lung cancer symptoms, some of which are: a persistent cough that becomes worse over time; coughing up sputum with blood, known as hemoptysis; pain in the chest; and shortness of breath, hoarseness, and wheezing; constant feeling of fatigue; unintentional loss of weight; appetite loss; swelling of the neck and face; persistent problems with pneumonia and bronchitis.

Some of the other symptoms of lung cancer are: difficulties in swallowing; abnormalities of the fingers or fingernails, such as clubbing or the overgrowth of the tissues in the fingertips; paleness of skin or a bluish coloration; muscle atrophy or shrinkage; swelling or pain in the joints; tenderness or pain in bones; drooping of the eyelids; development of breasts in men.

Amongst these, the chief three symptoms to lung cancer that should not be ignored are persistent cough, especially when accompanied by blood streaked sputum, pain in the chest, especially when coughing or even breathing, and shortness of breath. When these early symptoms of lung cancer do occur, it is advisable to consult with your doctor immediately, especially if you are more than 40 years old and are a smoker.