6 early warning signs of lung cancer

Shortness of breath, hoarseness, prolonged cough, heart palpitations, sudden weight loss… can be early signs of lung cancer.

Lung cancer commonly occurs in long-term smokers, however, the number of non-smokers being diagnosed with lung cancer is increasing. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), 20% of people who die from lung cancer have never smoked. Lung cancer seems to be on the rise in 30 to 40 year olds who have never smoked. Potential causes of lung cancer in this population may be due to high levels of radon in the home, passive smoking, and family history.

Heavy air pollution and carcinogens like asbestos can also be to blame, the ACS says. However, there is no easy way to identify lung cancer in non-smokers. Doctors can screen for lung cancer with low-dose computed tomography (LDCT). Without screening, it is difficult to detect lung cancer in the early stages because the lungs have few nerve endings, so cancer cells can easily grow without causing discomfort to the patient.

By the time a patient experiences symptoms related to lung cancer to see a doctor, the disease may have advanced.

Because of the rise in lung cancer in people with virtually no risk factors, it’s important to pay attention to health signs. Here are some early warning signs of lung cancer to watch out for.

Shortness of breath

Shortness of breath is one of the main symptoms of Covid-19 and also a manifestation of lung cancer. When cancer cells begin to multiply at a rapid rate in the lungs, they block or narrow the airways, reducing the flow of air to the lungs. This makes it difficult for the person to breathe in the amount of air needed to transport all parts of the body, making it difficult for them to breathe.

If you’re an active person but find yourself gasping for breath after climbing a few stairs or performing tasks that used to be easy, this is unusual and disturbing.

Also, when the airways are constricted, blocked, or inflamed, the lungs can make a wheezing or hissing sound. This symptom can have many causes, some of which are benign and easy to treat. However, wheezing can also be a sign of lung cancer. So you shouldn’t assume that your wheezing is due to asthma or allergies, see your doctor to confirm the cause.

A persistent cough and difficulty breathing can be an early sign of lung cancer. Image: iStock.


A cold can cause hoarseness, but this symptom can signal something more serious over time. If your voice is deeper, more hoarse for no reason, take note. Hoarseness related to lung cancer can occur when the tumor affects the nerve that controls the larynx. When the nerve is compressed, it can paralyze the vocal cords, causing the voice to change.

Prolonged cough

A cold, flu, or Covid-19 can cause a cough. Coughing is the body’s way of preventing foreign particles from entering the airways and lungs, but a persistent cough is the first sign of lung cancer.

Cough symptoms of colds, flu or Covid-19 can last an average of 18 days. However, a dry, persistent cough that lasts about four to six weeks or longer could be a warning sign that you need an X-ray to check your lungs.

Heart beat fast

Young people who like to be active, but have an abnormally fast heart rate with minimal activity, could be a sign of a health problem, says Dr. Wert.

A study published in PubMed of the US National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) in March 2020 showed that cancer patients had decreased cardiovascular function. Accordingly, elevated heart rate at rest is a warning sign of cancer, including lung cancer.


Coughing up blood is never normal and should be treated urgently. Possible causes include lung cancer, bronchitis, viral or bacterial infections.

Coughing up blood can signal blood loss, leading to low blood pressure and fainting. Blood leaking in the lungs can clot in the bronchi (air passages) or alveoli (air sacs), potentially interfering with the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide when the person struggles to breathe.

Usually, coughing up blood is not painful, but sometimes a severe cough can also be accompanied by chest pain.

Weight loss, fever, night sweats

Unexplained weight loss of 4 kg or more over a short period of time could be a sign of an underlying health condition, one of which could be lung cancer. The growth of cancer cells can lead to loss of appetite and changes in body weight. With any type of cancer, the energy generated from the food you consume is consumed by the cancer cells, leading to fatigue and weight loss. Weight change is an important health sign that should not be ignored.

Besides, fever is not related to illness, or night sweats are also symptoms that may be related to lung cancer.

Chau Vu
(According to Everydayhealth, Healthline, Times of India)


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