Lung cancer can be difficult to detect, mainly because the condition often does not produce noticeable symptoms until it reaches an advanced stage. Additionally, some indicators such as persistent coughing or vocal hoarseness may be ignored simply due to the fact that they are so commonplace. But, an early diagnosis – at a stage when more treatment options are generally available – is essential to achieving the best possible lung cancer outcome. The two keys to early detection are (1) learning to recognize the initial symptoms and (2) knowing when to seek medical attention.
Lung cancer symptoms that should be discussed with a physician
The most common sign of lung cancer is a chronic, hacking cough, which may produce blood-tinged mucus. Other symptoms that should be brought to the attention of a physician include:
- Recurrent respiratory infections, such as bronchitis or pneumonia
- Shortness of breath
- Chronic wheezing
- A harsh vibrating sound with each breath (stridor)
- Hoarseness and other vocal changes
- Persistent chest pain unrelated to coughing
- Unexplained swelling in the neck and face
- Vague pain or weakness in a shoulder, arm or hand
- General fatigue
- Loss of appetite
- Unintended weight loss
- Fever that comes and goes
- Severe headaches
- Difficulty swallowing
Making the most of your time with a physician
To prepare for your lung cancer consultation, you might want to make a comprehensive list of your symptoms, including even those that may not be directly related to lung cancer. Also, call ahead to find out if you’ll need to do anything in advance, such as fast for a blood test. Consider asking a family member or friend to accompany you to provide support, serve as a second set of ears and help you recall the details of your visit afterward. Finally, think about and write down any questions you’d like to ask the physician.
If you’re experiencing a nagging cough or other early sign of lung cancer, don’t wait – have your symptoms checked out by a respiratory specialist in the Thoracic Oncology Program at Moffitt Cancer Center. Request a consultation by calling 1-888-663-3488 or completing our new patient registration form online. We do not require referrals.