9 Uncommon Signs of Lung Cancer You Need to Know About

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Most people know to be suspicious of a stubborn cough—but that’s just one of the worrisome signs of lung cancer

Detecting lung cancer


Each year, more than 234,000 people are diagnosed with lung cancer. It’s the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women, according to the American Cancer Society, with more people dying of lung cancer than colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined. Smokers are at greatest risk, but 10 to 15 percent of people with lung cancer have never smoked. In the earliest stages, there are no signs of lung cancer, which is why screening is so important for people who are at higher risk: According to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (it reviews medical screenings), smokers—and former smokers—should get annual screenings between the ages of 55 and 80. However, as the cancer progresses, symptoms surface—some of which you might not expect. Learn the 11 facts doctors wish you knew about lung cancer.

A change in a cough you’ve had for a while

A woman coughing

A cough that doesn’t go away can be one of the signs of lung cancer. So can a cough that changes. If you begin coughing up blood or rust-colored phlegm, see your doctor right away. Another warning sign: pain on one side of your chest (called unilateral chest pain), as opposed to the generalized chest pain associated with heart attacks, says Todd Weiser, MD, chief of thoracic surgery at White Plains Hospital in New York.

Unintentional weight loss

old woman standing on weight scale in living room

Losing ten or more pounds within three months without trying can signal many types of cancer, including lung cancer, says Carsten Schroeder, MD, thoracic surgeon at the Georgia Cancer Center. A loss of appetite can trigger the weight loss, or a tumor may disrupt the body’s metabolism. Check out 20 reasons weight loss could be a serious problem.

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8 Uncommon Signs of Lung Cancer You Need to Know About
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