What are the Signs and Symptoms of Lung Cancer?

Lung cancer—which is divided into two categories of small cell and non-small cell lung cancer—is the leading cause of cancer-related death in men and women in the United States and worldwide. It’s also the second most common cancer found in men and women in the U.S.

Smoking tobacco increases one’s lung cancer risk considerably, but a significant portion of lung cancer patients have never smoked. Exposure to some environmental toxins, such as radon or asbestos, has been shown to increase lung cancer risk as well.

The signs and symptoms of lung cancer may include:

  • A persistent cough
  • Coughing up blood
  • Recurrent lung infections
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest discomfort

These are often signs of advanced disease. Over half of patients diagnosed with lung cancer are diagnosed with metastatic disease at the time of their initial diagnosis—so symptoms may also include that of the metastasized disease, such as bone pain when the cancer has spread to the bones.

Lung cancer treatment is most promising when the cancer is detected early. The best way to detect lung cancer early is through screening, though screening is only recommended for those posing the highest risk of developing the disease. Those between the age of 55 and 80 years old who either: are current smokers, have quit smoking within the last 15 years, or have smoked more than 30 pack year in his or her lifetime (1 pack/day for 1 year x 30) should be screened for lung cancer via a low-dose CT scan.

Learn more about lung cancer from the Thoracic (Lung) Cancer Treatment Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.