What Are The Early Warning Signs Of Lung Cancer?

In the United States, lung cancer claims more lives than does prostate, ovarian, colon, and breast cancers combined. Worldwide, it’s the leading cause of all cancer deaths, for both men and women. The disease can be treated if caught in the early stages. Protect yourself and your family by being aware of the risk factors and the early warning signs of lung cancer.

What Are The Early Warning Signs Of Lung Cancer - Cigarette

Types Of Lung Cancer

There are two main categories of lung cancer: Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), and small-cell lung cancer (SCLC).  NSCLC is by far the most common type of lung cancer, accounting for up to 85% of all cases. Unfortunately, over half of cancers of this type, at the time of diagnosis, are already advanced.

Small-cell lung cancer occurs exclusively in those that smoke heavily, accounting for approximately 10-15% of all lung cancers. This type occurs less frequently than does NSCLC, is more aggressive, and can metastasize to areas outside the lungs. Non-small cell lung cancer comprises several types of cancer that are similar in nature, including adenocarcinoma, large-cell carcinoma, carcinoid tumors, and squamous cell carcinoma.

Non-Small Cell Cancer Types

Adenocarcinoma in situ develops in multiple areas within the lungs, spreading along the alveolar walls. More women than men get this type of cancer, with the prognosis being better than other types of lung cancer. Adenocarcinoma can be mistaken for pneumonia on a chest X-ray.

Large-Cell Carcinoma: This type of lung cancer is the least common type of NSCLC, and is known to spread to the lymph nodes and areas outside the lung.  Carcinoid tumors stem from mature neuroendocrine cells. There are two types of carcinoid tumors; typical and atypical. The former develops slowly, while the latter are more likely to spread beyond the lungs. Coughing and wheezing are common symptoms.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma: This type of NSCLC cancer is most likely to be contained within the lungs, often developing in the central chest area in the bronchi. Cancers originating in other locations in the body, that have become metastatic, often spread to the lungs via the lymph system and bloodstream.

Risk Factors

Smoking, and exposure to second-hand smoke (from cigarettes, cigars, and pipes) are the top risk factors for developing lung cancer. Exposure to radon gas, a byproduct of uranium breakdown in rock and soil, is another significant risk factor. Unhealthy levels of radon can accumulate in indoor air in homes or in work environments, where people then breathe it in. Exposure to carcinogenic compounds, such asbestos, arsenic, nickel, beryllium, tar, and chromium also increase risk.

The longer one has been smoking, the greater the danger. Age also factors in, with older people being more at risk. Family history and genetics play a part as well. Other factors include, living in a polluted area, exposure to radiation from CT scans and radiation therapy, being infected with HIV, and taking supplements with beta carotene. Smoking intensifies all of these risk factors, however, smoking cessation dramatically reduces risk.

Mesothelioma has gained a lot of attention from advertisements on television. It’s an aggressive form of cancer that is suspected to be caused by exposure to asbestos. It develops in the lining of the lungs. Symptoms can take decades to manifest, and include coughing, chest pain, unexplained weight loss, fever, fatigue, and chest pain.

Dana Reeve, Christopher Reeve’s wife, tragically died of lung cancer in 2006 due to radon exposure. She was only 44 years old. She had taken care of her quadriplegic husband for nine years. I can only imagine what the grief and stress of that situation did to her immune system. By the time the cancer was detected, it was inoperable, and she died soon after.

Early Warning Signs Of Lung Cancer - Hydrogen Generator

Early Warning Signs Of Lung Cancer

Sadly, the symptoms of lung cancer are often missed. Once a diagnosis is finally given, the cancer may have already spread. Early detection will always be paramount for a favorable prognosis, increased survival rates, and treatment efficacy.

1. Shortness of breath and trouble swallowing: Active cancer can block the airways and result in fluid accumulation around the lungs, making it difficult to fully inhale.

2. Chronic cough, wheezing, and hoarseness: A cough that is persistent and gets worse over time can be a warning sign of lung cancer.

3. Coughing up blood: Bleeding in the respiratory tract can cause hemoptysis, or coughing up blood.

4. Pain: Advanced lung cancer that has spread outside the lung, can cause pain in other areas of the body, including the bones. Weight loss, facial swelling, chronic headaches, nausea, numbness, jaundice, and fatigue can also be part of the picture, depending on which organ is affected.

5. Lingering infections: Infections, such as, pneumonia and bronchitis that won’t clear or that keep recurring.

Stages Of Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is staged using the TNM system, which determines the extent of tumor growth and metastases. T denotes the tumor’s location, size, and spread. N stands for node involvement, and whether the cancer has spread from its original location via the lymph system. M denotes the degree of metastases to other organs.

Once a class based on the TNM system is determined, a stage is then assigned to the cancer. The stages of disease progress from stage 0 to stage 4:

Stage 0: Cancer cells are detected in the lining of the airways but are contained.

Stage 1: Tumor size is less than 3 cm and is contained within the lung.

Stage 2: Tumor size is less than 6 cm with a single metastasis.

Stage 3: Tumor is larger than 3 cm and has spread to the lymph nodes.

Stage 4: The cancer has spread to other organs away from the lung, such as, the adrenal glands, kidney, liver, lymph nodes, bones, or brain. It may also be found in the fluid or lining surrounding the lungs or heart. Tumors, besides the primary tumor, may have formed in the lungs themselves. The prognosis for stage IV metastatic lung cancer is bleak, with therapies centered around pain-alleviation.

[Read More: [The 4 Stages of Cancer]

Screening Options

There are a variety of diagnostic procedures that are utilized when lung cancer is suspected:

  • Tissue and lymph node biopsies: Tissue is removed from the lymph nodes and lung tissue, and sent to a laboratory to check for malignancies.
  • Low-dose CAT scans: Used to detect fluid or abnormal tissue in the lungs.
  • Chest X-rays: Accesses whether air is leaking into the chest from the lungs.
  • Sputum cytology: Sputum (mucus that is coughed up from the lungs) is analyzed under a microscope to check for cancerous cells.
  • MRIs: Takes detailed images of areas within the lungs.
  • PET scans: An imaging procedure that looks for and detects malignancies.
  • Liquid biopsies: An early-detection screen, that looks for circulating cancer biomarkers and tumor DNA, from a single blood draw.
  • Bone scans: A scan that looks for rapidly dividing cells within the bone.
  • Thoracoscopy: A procedure that uses a thoracoscope to look for abnormalities within the chest cavity.
  • Mediastinoscopy: A mediastinoscope is inserted into the chest to look for abnormal areas between the lungs.
  • Bronchoscopy. A bronchoscope is inserted, via the mouth or nose, into the trachea and lungs to detect abnormal tissue.

[Read More: The IvyGene Test For Early Cancer Detection]

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Key Points

Lung cancer is the second most common cancer, and the leading cause of all cancer deaths. Smoking, exposure to radon gas and other carcinogenic substances, including asbestos, also factor into risk.

It’s important to know the warning signs of lung cancer, such as a chronic cough, coughing up blood, shortness of breath, and wheezing. Symptoms are often missed until a diagnosis determines that the cancer is advanced.

Prevention includes not smoking, quitting smoking if you are a smoker, protecting yourself from second-hand smoke and other carcinogens, checking your house for unhealthy levels of radon, eating a nutritious diet, employing detoxification techniques, exercising, managing stress, and taking time for self-care every day.

Have you or someone you know been diagnosed with lung cancer? Let me know in the comments:)

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(1) Mayo Clinic: Lung Cancer
(2) WebMC: The Types of Lung Cancer
(3) Mesothelioma.com: Mesothelioma Cancer
(4) CBS News: Shock As Dana Reeve Dies At 44
(5) National Cancer Institute: Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment
(6) Cleveland Clinic: Carcinoid Tumors of the Lungs
(7) American Cancer Society: Signs and Symptoms of Lung Cancer


Disclaimer: “I am not a medical doctor, and therefore, cannot diagnose or treat any medical condition, nor do I claim in any way to cure disease. Please be diligent and always do your own research in regard to any material I present on this site. I claim no responsibility for any distress, whether it be physical or emotional, that may occur as a result of the information you obtain from my blog.”

14 thoughts on “What Are The Early Warning Signs Of Lung Cancer?”

  1. Cancer is a life threatening illness and many people don’t have a full understanding of the risk factors for getting it, and how to spot the symptoms.  So generally, ignorance will always be an issue when it comes to disease and illness.

    I have gained a better understanding and knowledge from what I have read in your post. Thank you so much for writing and sharing this vital information with others.

    • Hi Chloe,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. Unfortunately, ignorance will always be an issue in all areas of life. Knowledge is power and has the potential to save lives:)

  2. Excellent post, absolutely excellent and I thoroughly applaud you for writing about this. Smoking kills, there is absolutely no doubt about it, and as you stated, the sooner you give it up the better. The damage done can lead to cancer many many years after giving up so people need to be aware of the warning signs, and be reminded regularly of the consequences. 

    Also, we know that a small but significant number of people, develop lung cancer who have themselves never smoked, but may well have been exposed to secondary smoke or other toxins at some point in their lives. Thank you for this information.

    • Thank you. Yes, smoking can be deadly, but refraining from tobacco use can significantly reduce lung cancer risk. The disease can be caused by other factors as well, such as exposure to radon gas and other carcinogens. Awareness around this issue and reducing exposure is crucial. We all need to protect ourselves the best we can. Thanks so much for your comment:)

  3. I learned a great deal about lung cancer from a community seminar that was hosted a few weeks ago. Thanks for reiterating the information. 

    Lung cancer is a dangerous disease, and the cause of most cancer deaths, and it must not be treated with levity, precautions need to be taken against it. The only problem I have concerning this is the fact that my neighbors smoke a lot, and I do constantly get exposed to it. 

    What are my chances of not getting affected by this? Thanks!

    • Hi Shelley,

      Thanks for reading my post. I’m glad it reviewed what you had already learned. 

      Lung cancer can be deadly and the symptoms related to it are often not taken seriously until the cancer is advanced. I would kindly ask your neighbors to not smoke in your company. That’s not an unreasonable request and one which they should honor, especially considering the consequences of second-hand smoke. 

  4. Thanks for giving out all these details about lung cancer and the various warning symptoms to be alerted to. This will definitely help to create awareness about, not only the symptoms of lung cancer, but diagnostic tools and treatment. I will definitely share this in order to educate my friends, family, and followers on social media.Thanks so much for writing this important article. 

  5. This is a really educating and informative review and I am grateful for this great research you have taken your time to carry out. Cancer on its own is a really deadly disease. Measures should be taken to prevent it. 

     I never knew there were different kinds of kung cancer, but kudos to this great article for enlightening me and listing the 5 signs of lung cancer and some of the causes… lung cancer as said above is the second most common cancer and the leading cause of all cancer deaths and therefore we need to know what to do to prevent it. Thanks for this enlightenment and I hope to share with others.

    • Hi Willy,

      Knowing the symptoms of lung cancer can lead to early diagnosis, and therefore, increased survival rates. It’s also imperative to know the causes of lung cancer and how to protect ourselves. I appreciate your comment!

  6. Lung cancer is what took my uncle back in 2014.  He lived with it for 9 or 10 years.  He was diagnosed when it was stage 2.  He had part of his lung removed, and then it progressed to stage 3 around 2009.  Stage 4 in 2010.  He lived each day  to the fullest and was even in a dinner theater performance in Naples, FL.  toward the latter part of his life.  He had the most courageous spirit.  I definitely recommend prevention screenings for all types of cancer since it is estimated to affect 1 out of 4 Americans now, and an estimated 1 out of 2 Americans in the next 10 to 15 years.  Cancer runs on both sides of my family so I get regular physicals and lab work.  Thanks for writing this very informative post about the warning signs of Lung Cancer.  If it helps save one life, it was worth it.


    • Hi Jay,

      I’m sorry to hear about your uncle. He sounds like an amazing man. It’s tragic that cancer is claiming so many lives. Prevention screening is critical to catching the disease in the early stages when the prognosis is still good. That’s why I’m trying to get the word out about the importance of early testing and diagnosis, along with strategies that we can all incorporate into our lives to hopefully prevent cancer in the first place. 

      Thanks so much for reading and for your insightful comment. 

  7. Nice post! in my opinion, this post was really good and very informational. I don’t know for sure, but I think that my uncle died from lung cancer like 9 years ago. He was coughing a lot and was very ill at the time. Anyway, good job wit the post and keep up the good work.


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