Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in both men (after prostate cancer) and women (after breast cancer). African-American heritage and a history of smoking are predisposing factors towards developing lung cancer.
The most common symptom of lung cancer is chronic, persistent cough. This can also be concurrent with wheezing and dyspnea.
As the lung cancer progresses, hoarseness can also be experienced. This is a result of laryngeal nerve involvement or compression by the tumor.
Depending on what part of the lung is involved in malignancy, patients may display abnormal breath sounds. This can manifest as dull lung sounds (effusion) or crackles (lobar pneumonia).
Patients may produce blood-tinged sputum and can report coughing up blood, known as hemoptysis. This is a very common sign of respiratory malignancy.
Another sign of lung cancer is chest pain, which is not always present. It can range from mild to severe pain and can be localized or unilateral.
Due to physical obstruction or diaphragm paralysis, patients can complain of anorexia. Later in disease patients can report weight loss, and this is a common sign of malignancy.
Patients typically show symptoms of lung cancer late in disease, as the tumor gets progressively larger. Thus, anorexia, cough, hoarseness and chest pain may not be present in early stages of cancer. Often, lung cancers that are found early are incidental findings on routine X-rays.
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