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Readers Respond: What Were Your First Symptoms of Lung Cancer?

Responses: 17


Updated January 25, 2015

Having an awareness of the early symptoms of lung cancer increases the chance that it will be found at an earlier, more curable stage. Examples of first symptoms may be a cough that lingers after a cold, or subtle changes in breathing that you dismiss as a symptom of age or needing more exercise. What were your earliest symptoms of lung cancer? Please share your story or that of your loved one, so others can be alert to these early symptoms as well.

Shortness of breath & heart flutters

Enjoyed reading all your posts, very informative. I have had a few heart flutters over the past four months , now the last few days severe fatigue and more flutters , shortness of breath and a hoarse voice if I talk too long . I seen my doctor today she sent me for a blood test and chest X-ray . To my shock X-Ray showed a small nodule left lung rib area. To this I have no pain at all but the fatigue and breathlessness is quite severe. But I am thankful that I am not in any pain. Doctor then sent me to have a CT scan which came back as benign , but I am yet to find out the results after the specialists take a look at it. Yes I am a smoker only 3 per day but I am still a smoker. After the shock I was in earlier today I came home and threw my smokes in the bin. I am going to have further tests heart related later this week. Thank you all for sharing your stories. Good luck with your journeys
—Guest Nodule found today

Misdiagnosed as tension headaches

In April 2013, my Mom started having headaches, which she never, ever got. In a matter of one week, she quickly began to experience nausea, vomiting, etc. She went to two doctors in a two week period and was misdiagnosed twice as first having tension headaches and then muscle spasms. The prescirbed meds didn't help. The pain got so bad she drover herself to the hospital on April 20, 2013 where they found she had a metastatic brain tumor from lung cancer. They did brain surgery on April 21st to removed the tumor. She died April 23, 2014. My mom was a smoker, but a super healthy person: ate right, exercised, etc. She died a miserable death. She was in a lot of pain, even though Hospice tried to ease it. The doctors gave her 6 months to a year to live. My Mom was 54 when she left us.
—Guest Liz R.

1st stage treatment

I am very active and walk and run for 1 hour a day. due to some other problem my chest x ray was taken then they gave me treatment for tb for 4 months. now they say i have cancer. i have no symtoms except shoulder pain
—Guest anantharaohk@gmail.com

Short of Breath when Walking

I thought being short of breath and getting pneumonia twice was related to my smoking for 50 years but didn't know what to do. But, when I got pneumonia for the second time a year ago because of a cold I caught, and was subsequently hospitalized because I couldn't breathe - - - barely got to the hospital in time - - - I found out from the X-ray there was a spot on my lung - - - October of 2011. In March of 2012 a lobectomy was performed as the results of the PET/CT scan showing a nodule about 1 cm in size. I'm lucky to have gotten pneumonia so that the non-small cell cancer could be eradicated before it spread. The six-month follow-up CT scan shows no recurrence. We will see what the one-year follow-up CT scan shows. So far I am a lucky gal that smoked two packs a day for 50 years. By the way, I quit smoking the day I entered the hospital - not because I wanted to - but because I couldn't breathe. Sometimes a lung cancer scare motivates you to stop.
—Guest lucky gal

Janice B.

I never smoked. I was diagnosed in the ER (2009) because I was having trouble breathing and my voice was very hoarse. I started praying and so did everyone else. I knew I would be fine then. Faith and a positive attitude are assets. One miracle after another. Today, I am in remission with the exception of taking tarceva at night and alimta every three weeks. I know that it is because of Almighty God that I am still here and all the prayers.
—Guest Janice

Symptoms of Lung Cancer - Exhaustion

I was extremely exhausted for years (thought I was over worked) then I thought I pulled my left shoulder (where I put all my stress) and finally was treated for same which eventually led to a chest x-ray and CT scan which led to a diagnosis of non-small cell stage iv C. I was diagnosed in 02/07 and was told I probably had the cancer for 4 or 5 years. My first real symptoms were probably the exhaustion and a different cough I had for a long time.
—Guest Rita

Psychic Diagnosed

I didn't have any symptoms. I discovered that I had lung cancer by going to a friend of mine who happened to be a psychic. She said, Chris, you've got cancer and you're going to die. That was 10 years ago. I did die but returned to my body. I had stage 4 lung cancer and survived. It's truely a miracle. If anyone is interested my story is online. Google me.
—Guest Chris

Early Detection

I had been on holiday and thought that I had trapped a nerve in my shoulder , had pain down the back of my arm , and an irritating cough when I laughed , generally I felt well and had no other symptoms , I had intense physio which obviously did nothing at all , some 5 months later I noticed the change of shape in my nails and they grew very quickly , this is known as clubbing, a definate change of shape ! I saw the Gp on the monday and had an x ray and was diagnosed with a NSCLC pancoast tumour , be aware of your own body changes and dont allow a a gp to dismiss it .
—Guest Barbara Frith

A change in sense of smell

My mother suddenly developed an irrational change in her sense of smell. All cooking smells became extremely unpleasant as did a number of other smells.

Early Symptoms

I thought i had pneumonia, because i am a singer, & it got so I couldn't get through a whole song, without having an instrumental break, 2-3 times, during the song, so I went for x-rays, & that was when they found the tumor ( which was 1" in diameter. I had no symptoms, with cervical cancer) That was just visible by microscope. This 3rd. time, I just had a sudden shortness of breath. I am, now, undergoing chemo, every 3 weeks. I am feeling a difference in my breathing, already, after just 1 treatment of Alimta.
—Guest Norma Hersey

Foot pain and numbness

My dad had numbness and pain in his feet for several months with a variety of diagnoses. Finally right after a diagnosis of some kind of neuropathy they got a clue and found he had stage 4 lung cancer which had spread to his spine and brain. He had only 10% of his lung capacity left. He was extremely fit and right up till shortly before diagnosis, he was a competitive tennis player, playing 3x weekly against guys half his age. Absolutely no other symptoms. He was diagnosed in February and died in May, pain and drug free at home.

Broken Ribs?

1 year of fatigue, weakness and shortness of breath at activities. Checked for heart health. Then 2 months of sharp pain at sudden inhalation like yawning or sneezing. Tender outer rib area under right breast. X-Rayed for possible rib fracture but no injury had incurred. 2 more months with escalating collar bone /shoulder blade /whole shoulder /upper right arm pains. Finally, can't bend over without coughing and tightness in chest. Can't stretch and scrub with the right arm. CT Scan and then PET Scan - diagnosed with Stage 3B Wet non-small cell lung cancer with a small malignant nodule and malignant pleural effusion (fluid) in the lining at the rib pain area. Undergoing chemotherapy and God is gracing me with more time for now.
—Guest Ann

What are doctors doing ...

My sister died last Oct after a 1 yr battle with lung cancer. She had quit smoking 3 years earlier. After several months she was diagnosed with stage 3 lung cancer and had a tumor that was too large to take out. Her major early symptom was diarrhea and anemia, which sent the doctors looking in the wrong direction. Finally a simple chest x-ray found the tumor. She then underwent chemo and radiation and then an unsuccessful operation to remove the tumor. Late August they discovered tumors in her brain. She underwent surgery to remove the tumors. She was home for 2 days and then developed what seemed like pneumonia. After 2 1/2 weeks in the hospital they found that the lung tumor was infected and no amount of antibiotics could treat it. She died 3 weeks after brain surgery. She was 53 years old and seemed to be in good health. What I don't understand is with all this info about women and lung cancer why are the Dr's looking harder and sooner for lung cancer.
—Guest Barbara

Back, shoulder, rib pain ignored

First visit: MD treated (dismissed?) my midback pain as "repetitive motion syndrome" because I worked at computers, even though I had no previous RMS symptoms. MD offered meds and physical therapy, but didn't consider an X-ray or CT scan because "a soft-tissue injury wouldn't show up on those." I took the PT and added posture improvement to my regular exercise routine. Ten months later, now with added shoulder and rib pain, and chest pain when coughing or sneezing, I returned. More offers of meds and PT. Still nothing diagnostic. Two months after that, pain continued despite more PT. FINALLY, 12 months after my first visit: X-rays, which led to CT scans, which led to biopsy, which led to diagnosis of Stage IV lung cancer -- in an otherwise healthy 53-year-old woman who never smoked. I'm now 55 and still fighting via multiple chemotherapy regimens, but I should have INSISTED on diagnostic procedures at that first visit. NEVER let anyone dismiss your pain lightly.
—Guest Catharine

Patient Support from Lung Cancer Allianc

My early symptoms were an occasional cough after a cold and neck pain. If I hadn't had a friend whose lung cancer was diagnosed when she had an x-ray for a broken arm, I might have missed my own diagnosis. My husband kept bugging me to go to the doctor and be checked for lung cancer when my friend received her stage 4 lung cancer diagnosis. I insisted he was over-reacting; but I finally gave in and went to the doctor. I was totally schocked when I was diagnosed with Stage 3A lung cancer. Both my friend and I are never smokers. About 25,000 never smoker, women this year, will be diagnosed with lung cancer. It is the fastest growing category of cancers. I want to refer people to www.lungcanceralliance.org for credible information about lung cancer, counseling and referral, a phone buddy, a community chat room, clincial trials matching service, etc.
—Guest Phyllis Goldstein

Early Signs of Lung Cancer

In march of 2010 I was splitting wood with the usual shortness of breath after a long winter. Two months later I was coughing up blood in my phlegm. I became so short of breath, it winded me to tie my shoe laces. I saw a gastro doctor for an endosopy and found nothing. He sent me to a pulmonoligist and saw at once that I was not getting air in the top half of my right lung. After a bronchoscopy, it was confirmed my bronchial tube was completely blocked with a squamous cell carcinoma. I went on radiation therapy at once, and am now getting chemo. I have a series of 25 rad. treatments of which I have had 11 so far. I am breathing much easier now but still don't have a prognosis. I hope for the best. I am 74 years old.
—Guest william curtis

No coughing blood, no weight loss

I didn't have the symptoms that I was asked about so I thought I was symptom free. But after reading what Dr. Lynne Eldridge said about symptoms,, I had about all the symptoms. i was puzzled about my lung symptoms because I had always been healthy and had no earlier lung problems. I had never smoked-all the more puzzling. I was even using inhalers. And I was noticing shortness of breath when I got to the top of my stairs. It makes sense now. My tumor was removed at stage 1a, moderately differentiated.
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