Lung cancer: Signs and symptoms to look out for
Lung cancer symptoms don’t usually appear in the early stages. But as the condition progresses, some of the more recognised symptoms that can develop include a cough that doesn’t go away after two or three weeks and coughing up blood. But there are other lesser known symptoms of lung cancer to note.
A hoarse voice or a changing of the voice is not a common known symptom of lung cancer, with only 1 percent of people in the UK identifying it in a symptom awareness survey conducted by the Global Lung Cancer Coalition.
Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation explains: “A tickle. A croak. A frog in your throat. There are so many ways to describe a hoarse voice.
“We all experience hoarseness at some point in our lives, perhaps after shouting at a football match or speaking for a prolonged period of time. However, if you are experiencing unexplained hoarseness or a weakening of your voice – it could be a sign of lung cancer.”
It continues: “Hoarseness can be caused by a lung cancer tumour pressing on the laryngeal nerve – which is in the chest – causing a paralysis or weakening of the nerve, and sometimes resulting in paralysis of a vocal cord.
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“Although it can occur in patients with lung cancer in the right lung, it is more common in those who have a tumour in the left lung.”
Lung cancer can rapidly grow and spread throughout the body, so as soon as you first notice any symptoms, including a hoarse voice, it’s important to speak to your GP.
The lung cancer foundation adds: “Having a hoarse voice can have a significant impact on your everyday life, both practically and emotionally.
“It isn’t something you should ignore. In many cases, your hoarseness will be caused by something else and won’t be a sign of lung cancer.
“But for some people like Andrew, it was an early sign of the disease.”
The main symptoms of lung cancer are listed by the NHS as:
- a cough that doesn’t go away after 2 or 3 weeks
- a long-standing cough that gets worse
- chest infections that keep coming back
- coughing up blood
- an ache or pain when breathing or coughing
- persistent breathlessness
- persistent tiredness or lack of energy
- loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss
It notes less common symptoms as:
- changes in the appearance of your fingers, such as becoming more curved or their ends becoming larger (this is known as finger clubbing)
- difficulty swallowing (dysphagia) or pain when swallowing
- a hoarse voice
- swelling of your face or neck
- persistent chest or shoulder pain
So if you’re diagnosed with lung cancer, what does treatment involve?
Treatment for lung cancer depends on where your cancer is, how far it has grown or spread, and a person’s general health and level of fitness.
Cancer Research UK says the main treatments are:
- chemoradiotherapy – chemotherapy with radiotherapy
- symptom control treatment
You have one or more of these treatments. But again, this depends on the stage of your cancer and also how well the treatment works.
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