Signs & Symptoms

Lung cancer may not cause any symptoms, especially in the early stages of disease.

Therefore, it may first be detected on X-rays, CT scans, or other kinds of tests being done to check on another condition.

The following signs and symptoms of lung cancer may also be caused by many other conditions and are not specific to lung cancer. Talk to your doctor if you have any of the following:

How does lung cancer affect breathing?
The tumor can block off an airway and interfere with breathing. When an airway is blocked, mucus trapped in the lung may become infected, resulting in pneumonia. Lung cancer can also cause fluid to build up in the space between the lungs and the ribs. This compresses the spongy lung tissue so that the air sacs can’t fill with air, causing shortness of breath.

Coughing symptoms

  • A cough that gets worse or does not go away
  • Coughing up blood

Chest symptoms

  • Breathing trouble, such as shortness of breath
  • New wheezing when you breathe
  • Ache or pain in your chest, upper back, or shoulder that doesn’t go away and may get worse with deep breathing
  • A hoarse voice
  • Frequent respiratory tract infections, such as pneumonia or bronchitis

General physical symptoms

  • Feeling unusually tired all the time
  • Weight loss with no known cause and loss of appetite
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Swelling in the face and/or veins in the neck

Lung cancer that spreads may cause other symptoms, like pain in the back or other bones or weakness in the arms or legs. If it spreads to the brain, it may cause headaches, seizures, or vision changes.1,2

Updated March 4, 2016.


  1. Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment (PDQ®). National Cancer Institute website. Updated May 12, 2015. Accessed March 4, 2016.
  2. Lung Cancer – Non-Small Cell Symptoms and Signs. American Society of Clinical Oncology website. Approved August 2015. Accessed March 4, 2016.