It's impossible to say exactly what symptoms somebody with lung cancer might get. They will vary between people, and how advanced their cancer is.
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.
In the diagram below we've highlighted some common symptoms that people with lung cancer might get.
It's important to remember that exactly what symptoms you have will depend on:
Remember, everyone is different – you may not have all these symptoms, and you may have some that aren't shown here. If you're ever worried, get in touch with your healthcare team.
Lung cancer causes a number of symptoms in this area, including:
If the cancer spreads to the brain or other parts of your nervous system, you may experience:
The following information gives you some tips on how to relieve some of the more common symptoms of lung cancer. If you think that any of these approaches might be useful to you, discuss them with your healthcare team.
You should always contact your healthcare team if you experience any change in your symptoms or develop a new symptom. You should not try to treat any symptoms with medicines unless your healthcare team has advised you that it’s safe to do so.
Having a frequent cough, or a cough that won’t go away, can be distressing for many people. It can become painful, and might 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 affecting the chemicals your body makes that are responsible for feeling hungry.
Whatever the reason, having a nutritious and balanced diet is important and will help you keep your strength up as you have treatment.
For more ways to maintain a healthy diet while experiencing side effects, explore our diet and nutrition page – click here
Headaches could be a sign of tumours growing 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 following symptoms 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. 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 way to manage it.
You’ll probably have a few different tests and scans after your diagnosis – these help your doctor learn more about your cancer so they can work with you to draw up a treatment plan.
Changes to DNA can cause some cancers to start growing. ALK+, RET+, and ROS1+ are examples of these changes.