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Lung cancer symptoms: A sign in your laugh could signal the deadly disease

Lung cancer: Signs and symptoms to look out for

Lung cancer symptoms tend to appear as the condition progresses, which means there’s usually no signs or symptoms in the early stages. Some people with early lung cancer do have symptoms though, it’s important to note.

If you go to your doctor when you first notice symptoms your cancer might be diagnosed at an earlier stage, and treatment is more likely to be effective.

Lung cancer can affect a range of bodily functions, and something that might be affected is your laugh.

Chest pain that is often worse when laughing is a common symptom of lung cancer, according to American Cancer Society.

Chest pain can indicate blockages in your lungs, such as fluid buildup, enlarged lymph nodes, and tumours.

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Chest pain may also be worse when deep breathing and coughing.

Other “common symptoms” of the disease listed by the charity include:

  • A cough that doesn’t go away or gets worse
  • Coughing up blood or rust-coloured sputum (spit or phlegm)
  • Hoarseness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling tired or weak
  • Infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia that don’t go away or keep coming back
  • New onset of wheezing

If lung cancer spread to other parts of the body it may cause different symptoms, such as:

  • Bone pain (like pain in the back or hips)
  • Nervous system changes (such as headache, weakness or numbness of an arm or leg, dizziness, balance problems, or seizures), from cancer spread to the brain
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice), from cancer spread to the liver
  • Swelling of lymph nodes (collection of immune system cells) such as those in the neck or above the collarbone

Many of the signs and symptoms can also be caused by other medical conditions, advises Cancer Research UK, but finding lung cancer early can mean that it’s easier to treat.

It adds: “If you notice any symptoms or changes get them checked out by your GP as soon as possible.”

The charity also advises on less common or rare symptoms of lung cancer.

It explains: “Some people have swollen fingers and nails (finger clubbing). They may also have pain and swelling in their joints. This condition is called hypertrophic pulmonary osteoarthropathy (HPOA).”

It’s rare but some types of lung cancer cells produce hormones that go into the bloodstream.

The charity states: “These hormones can cause symptoms that don’t seem related to the lung cancer. Doctors call them paraneoplastic syndrome.

“These hormone symptoms might include pines and needles or numbness in the fingers or toes, muscles weakness, drowsiness, weakness dizziness and confusion, breast swelling in men, and/or blood clots.”

A very rare type of lung cancer growing right at the top of the lung is called a Pancoast tumour.

These tumours cause very specific symptoms – the most common symptom is severe shoulder pain, or pain that travels down the arm.

Pancoast tumours may also cause:

  • Drooping or weakness of one eyelid
  • A small pupil in the same eye
  • Loss of sweating on one side of the face 

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