Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
Up to one-fourth of all people with lung cancer may have
no symptoms when the
cancer is diagnosed. These cancers usually are identified incidentally when a
chest X-ray is performed for another reason. The majority of people, however,
develop symptoms. The symptoms are due to direct effects of the primary tumor,
to effects of metastatic tumors in other parts of the body, or to disturbances of hormones, blood, or other systems caused by the cancer.
A new cough in a smoker or a former smoker should
raise concern for lung cancer.
A cough that does not go away or gets worse over time
should be evaluated by a health-care provider.
Coughing up blood (hemoptysis) occurs in
a significant number of people who have lung cancer. Any amount of coughed-up
blood is cause for concern.
Chest pain is a symptom in about one-fourth of people
with lung cancer. The pain is dull, aching, and persistent.
Shortness of breath usually results from a blockage to the flow of air in
part of the lung, collection of fluid around the lung (pleural effusion), or
the spread of tumor throughout the lungs.
Wheezing or hoarseness may
signal blockage or inflammation in the lungs that may go along with cancer.
Repeated respiratory infections, such as bronchitis or pneumonia, can be a sign of lung cancer.
Symptoms of metastatic lung tumors depend on the location and size. About 30% to 40% of people with lung cancer have some symptoms or signs of metastatic disease.
Lung cancer most often spreads to the liver, the
adrenal glands, the bones, and the brain.
Metastatic lung cancer in the liver usually does not
cause symptoms, at least up to the time of diagnosis.
Metastatic lung cancer in the adrenal glands also
typically causes no symptoms.
Metastasis to the bones is most common with small
cell cancers but also occurs with other lung cancer types. Lung cancer that
has metastasized to the bone causes bone pain, usually in the backbone
(vertebrae), the thighbones, and the ribs.
Lung cancer that spreads to the brain can cause difficulties with vision, weakness on one side of the body, and/or seizures.
Paraneoplastic syndromes are the remote, indirect
effects of cancer not related to direct invasion of an organ by tumor cells. Often they are caused by
chemicals released from the cancers. Symptoms include the following:
Clubbing of fingers -- the depositing of extra tissue
under the fingernails
New bone formation -- along the lower legs or arms
Anemia -- low numbers
of red blood cells and high calcium level or low sodium level in the blood
Other effects -- muscle weakness, skin rashes, and
degeneration of the brain