How Does Lung Cancer Feel Like?

It doesn’t always feel like anything at all. That’s why many people are unaware they have lung cancer. In its early stages it does not usually produce discomfort or other warning signals. So is there a way to tell whether you have lung cancer? Look for these signs.


Anne Jäkel

Roland Schäfli


Signs of Lung Cancer

So how can you tell you have lung cancer? Because there are no nerve endings in the lung, small nodules or masses seldom cause discomfort. Lung cancer symptoms vary depending on the tumor’s location and pace of spread, or metastasis, therefore there is no set period when they should occur. If you have lung cancer in its early stages, you may notice the following symptoms: 

  • a persistent cough that can worsen over time;
  • a worsening or returning bronchitis;
  • coughing up blood or blood-stained mucus;
  • weight loss.

Symptoms Become Severe

While coughing and bronchitis might be irritating, the condition progresses and other, more severe symptoms may emerge, such as bone pains and headaches. These symptoms appear when cancer has progressed to secondary areas within the body away from the lungs, and they only produce discomfort when they impact a structure nearby, such as the ribs. If the cancer has advanced into the chest, there can be worsening chest pain and shortness of breath. Other symptoms may be loss of appetite, general fatigue, frequent lung infections, and swollen lymph nodes in the neck, arm pits of upper chest area.

Each Situation is Different

While lung cancer therapies differ, they all aim to alleviate some of the patient’s suffering. Because each situation is different, the advice is always tailored to the individual patient. Chemotherapy, targeted therapies, and immunotherapy are examples of systemic treatments that can help relieve pain while shrinking the tumour. Palliative radiation treatment, when given to specific areas for pain relief, can also help.

Opiates as well as nerve-pain drugs can all help to alleviate pain. Physical therapy, acupuncture, reiki, and massage are some of the other therapies that may be beneficial, depending on the situation.

Early detection of lung cancer is key.

Because signs of lung cancer usually do not show until the disease has spread outside of the lungs, it is important to be screened regularly for signs of lung cancer.


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