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Lung Cancer

Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms of lung cancer include chest discomfort or pain, persistent cough, trouble breathing, wheezing, bloody sputum, hoarseness, loss of appetite, unexplained weight loss, fatigue, trouble swallowing, and swelling in the face and/or veins in the neck (NCI 2013c). Individuals with SCLC sometimes exhibit other symptoms, including the syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone secretion (SIADH). (Antidiuretic hormone, or vasopressin, helps regulate reabsorption of water in the kidneys, as well as blood pressure.) Abnormal antidiuretic hormone secretion leads to excess fluid buildup in tissues (Canadian Cancer Society 2014).

Sometimes patients present with symptoms that are due to the cancer but are not caused by the local presence of cancer cells. The term “paraneoplastic syndrome” refers to the collection of symptoms that result from substances produced by the tumor, and occur remotely from the tumor itself. Sometimes, paraneoplastic syndromes can appear before the cancer is diagnosed and may be the presenting symptom of the cancer. These conditions include Cushing syndrome, caused by excessive cortisol levels; paraneoplastic cerebellar degeneration (a rare neurologic disorder); or Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome, a rare autoimmune disorder resulting in muscle weakness in the limbs (Yoh 2003; Marchioli 1997; Thomas 2004; Gandhi 2006; Gilhus 2011; NCI 2013c).​