Symptoms of Lung Cancer

Lung cancer often has no symptoms until it has spread (metastasized). This is because there are few specialized nerves (pain receptors) in the lungs. When lung cancer symptoms do occur, they vary depending on the type of lung cancer and location and size of the tumor. Some lung cancer symptoms are similar to those of other common illnesses.

If you think you might be at risk, talk with your doctor about lung cancer screening and whether it makes sense for you. Remind your doctor of your medical and social history at each physical examination to assist in a prompt and accurate diagnosis.

Local Disease 

The cancer is restricted to the area where the cancer started with no sign it has spread.

  • Coughing (most common, 50% of cases)
  • Blood in sputum (hemoptysis)
  • Shortness of breath (dyspnea)
  • Wheezing
  • Pain in the chest
  • Fatigue
  • Pneumonia

Advanced Disease 

The cancer has spread from where it started to nearby tissue, lymph nodes or other parts of the body.


  • Hoarseness
  • Difficulty or pain in swallowing (dysphagia)
  • High pitched sound, usually heard while taking a breath, similar to wheezing (stridor)
  • Excess fluid in the lining of the lung (pleural effusion)
  • Excess fluid in the lining of the heart (pericardial effusion)
  • Distant metastases (cancer has spread to other parts of the body)


  • Headaches
  • Seizures
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Confusion
  • Visual disturbances


  • Bone pain


  • Stomach pain (right side)
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Nausea

Cancer can also cause symptoms far from the tumor that may not seem related to the lung cancer, but are the result of it such as:

  • Lack of appetite, weight loss, weakness (cancer cachexia or wasting syndrome)
  • Clubbing of fingers
  • Too much calcium in the blood (hypercalcemia)
  • Low red blood cells (anemia)