While the cancer itself will first cause symptoms in or around the lungs, chest and throat, as is spreads (i.e. it becomes advanced, or metastasises) tumours elsewhere in the body may start to cause additional symptoms.
In the diagram below we've highlighted some common symptoms that people with lung cancer may experience.
It's important to remember that cancer symptoms will vary according to:
Generally, in the early stages of lung cancer, symptoms will mostly affect your lungs, or the area around your lungs. As the cancer becomes more advanced, you may find you start to have symptoms in other parts of your body.
Remember, everyone is different – you may not experience all of these symptoms, and you may experience some that aren't shown here. If you're ever worried or concerned, get in touch with your healthcare team.
If the cancer spreads to the brain or other parts of your nervous system, you may experience:
Lung cancer causes a number of symptoms in this area, including:
The following information gives you some tips on how to relieve some of the more common symptoms of NSCLC. If you think that any of these approaches might be useful to you, discuss them with your healthcare team.
Having a frequent or persistent cough can be distressing for many people. It can become painful, or interrupt sleep and rest.
Also known as “dyspnoea”, breathlessness can be quite distressing to experience. It can feel as though it is difficult to get enough air, and some people find that it can make them feel quite anxious. It’s important that you try and remain calm if you experience breathlessness, and try not to panic.
Cancer can sometimes make people lose their appetite. There are a number of reasons for this – it could be that you are feeling nauseous or constipated, or maybe that your cancer is causing hormones responsible for hunger to behave differently in your body.
Whatever the reason, having a nutritious and balanced diet is important and will help you keep your strength up as you have treatment.
Headaches could be a sign of tumours in the brain, however they can also be caused by a number of other things – this is why it’s important that you discuss them with your doctor to find out what’s causing them.
Headaches caused by cancer can happen at any time of the day, and if they are very bad might make you wake up at night. They might make you feel nauseous, and are generally uncomfortable.
If you experience any of the symptoms on the right with your headache, you should call your healthcare provider as soon as possible:2
You should also seek advice from your healthcare provider if this is the first time you have experienced headaches, or if your headache is sudden or persistent.
A number of things could make you feel dizzy, including if cancer has spread to the brain. Dizziness in itself isn’t harmful, but it might make you feel nauseous and could lead to a fall.
Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms experienced by people with cancer. It is a tiredness that is not relieved by rest or sleep, which may affect you physically, mentally and emotionally.2
If cancer starts growing in the bones, it can lead to pain. Depending on where the cancer has spread to, this pain may lead to further issues. For example, if the arms or legs are affected, pain usually becomes more severe with movement. However, if the spine is affected, pain is usually worse at night or just after resting.
Telling your healthcare team about any pain is important so that they can monitor its progression and help you find a method of managing it that can make you more comfortable.