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

Responses: 43


Updated July 28, 2009

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 early 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. Share Your Story

Severe back pain and weight loss

My partner was diagnosed with advanced terminal lung cancer in Aug 2013 and passed Dec 2013. My partner was 54 and had been a heavy smoker since he was around 15/16 years old. He was very active and fairly healthy but for the 5 years i knew him he always had the 'smokers cough'. He had no symptoms at all for just Lung Cancer until 2 months before he died. He had severe back pain for half a year but ignored it until he was admitted to hospital in August 2013. We found out he had tumours in the windpipe, both lungs, spine, pelvis, rib cage and two on the brain and 2-3 months to live. The only symptoms he had started to later develop was weight loss, confusion, fatigue and severe back pain. Once diagnosed he had radiotherapy to help the spine and just started pallative chemo. A month before he passed in November he developed a very chesty cough and coughed up very thick mucus, peed blood, severe fatigue and had bad confusion, we found out this was bronchopneumonia. My advice is please go
—Guest Ashley

CT Scan

I am 54 yrs old, smoked off and on when I was in my early 20's. I had some health issues in May and again in July 2013 where I required chest x-rays, an ultrasound and then a CT scan. It was noted that I needed immediate gallbladder surgery. In the chest x-ray a 4 cm spot on the upper left lobe of my lung was noticed. Surgeons didn't feel the spot was cancerous but suggested a follow-up CT scan 6 months later. I just completed that scan 4 days ago and await my results. I do experience energy losses and have some occasional minor pain on my left side over my lung and some minor phlem in my throat. If the results are that its lung cancer I hope we caught it in its earliest stages.
—Guest Lance Walker

Thank you

hello i know i'm only twenty but recently i have bin experiencing pain in the left side of my chest wen i breathe deep sometimes it's ok.. but sometimes it's awful. i am a smoker , i have bin for 7 years now but the one thing scaring me is the small lynth node in my neck. i have had it since jan i am currently on a waiting list to get a scan of my neck but after reading other people's symptoms it's clear that i should be safer than sorry an push for a scan of my lungs as well thank you all for helping me make my decision.
—Guest miss T

Difficulty Swallowing Pills

My sister died of lung/bronchial cancer. She had no symptoms at first but she could not swallow her pills. I always wonder if there was a connection. Editor's note: I am sorry to hear of your loss. There definitely could be a connection as you note. Lung cancers (or enlarged lymph nodes from the spread of cancer) may grow and place pressure on the esophagus or essentially any region between the mouth and the stomach. For some people, the first symptom of lung cancer is difficulty swallowing for this reason.
—Guest Peggy Ashline

I think I need a lung x-ray

I caught sharp chest, back, shoulder and neck pain at the right side of my chest when i was smoking. it also affects the veins of my neck at the right side. this gives me serious neck, chest, shoulder and back pains most especially when i take a depth breath. this symptoms started since early 2012. i went to the doctor and they made a chest x-ray but found nothing. the pains are still there today.. I think i have to do a lung x-ray. Editor's note: The purpose of this dialog is to hear about symptoms that people had prior to a diagnosis of lung cancer, but your comment is important. If you are having symptoms suggestive of lung cancer, continue to "bother" your doctor. Ask for an x-ray (a screening CT may be better since this may be recommended in your case even without symptoms, and is more accurate.) Or, you may need other tests. We all need to be our own advocates in our health care. If we have symptoms that aren't explained, we need answers. And if our doctors can't give them, we may need a different doctor. What so many people are saying here is that you need to listen to your body, and advocate for yourself.
—Guest eddie

Gas heater Could be the Problem!

Am a GP, 35 and with left shoulder pain that started last year winter. No other symptoms. Thought it was just a frozen shoulder. Took some pain killers and got better but never really fully recovered. Ther has been always a slight lingering pain on certain movements since that time. Now this winter came June 2013, the shoulder pain seem a bit worse but not like the first time. This time I have right lower chest pain which worsens on deep inhalation (plueritic pain). Thought I was developing pneumonia, took a full course of antibiotic with no improvement. I did not have fever, cough or night sweats however. I experience tenderness on pressing between my ribs on the right lower lateral chest wall. This got me really worried! So i requested for an ultrasound scan and chest Xray. They looked normal. Repeated again after a week at another imaging center, which picked a very small pleural effusion on the right lung. I ordered a chest CT Scan which revealed lymph nodes on mediastinum. Only the effusion and swollen lymph nodes is what shows on CT scan. Have started using gas heater since last year and this coincides with my symptoms. I have never smoked. I eat natural foods and 100% juices. Good lifestyle. No family history of cancers. Had asthma when I was young. Going in for ultrasound guied pleural fluid aspiration tomorrow. Praying to God for healing and will continue to pray that it will not end up being lung cancer cells in the pleural fluid.
—Guest Paul M

When u least expect it

I was experiencing chest pain around my heart. I thought I was having a heart attack. I went to the doctor and they did an ekg that came out normal. My doctor then ordered a Cat Scan. I had a black spot on my lower left lung. I'm 26 with three children. My doctor is monitoring the spot as of right now if it grows one more millimeter i have lung cancer. He advised me to stop smoking and try a more healthy life style. One minute your ok and the next your life changes. I'm scared but God will see me through.
—Guest tish1117

Lung cancer

I am 61 and was diagnosed with stage 4 non small cell lung cancer in 2012. Looking back I smoked from aged 11 to 28 and resumed smoking from 48 to 53. At aged 5I i had pneumonia and recovered but had a wheeze on and off when I breathed. Then in 2011 I noticed a decrease in my energy levels and put this down to old age. I moved to Sydney to live with family in August 2011 and got a job in January 2012. A few weeks prior I again suffered a bout of pneumonia but this time with pain on my left side. I was treated at the hospital and told to see my GP for follow up visits. I was beginning to feel weaker and had difficulty climbing the stairs to work. Meanwhile my GP had sent me for X-rays and a cat scan. One Saturday after work I had a short walk to get the train home, I had to stop twice to get my breath I couldn't wait to get home. My son collected the results of my X-rays and opened the envelope. I will never forget the look on his poor face when he read a 4m mass on L lung
—Guest Linda

Mom's shoulder pain

My mom just passed last June 17/2013. I remember she is been complaining about a shoulder/back pain that sometimes her Dr. will give her a cortisone shot & she will be fine for a while. My mom has COPD, heart failure and hypertension. Mother's day when she got admitted in the hospital for pneumonia. She was there for 3 weeks & was discharged to a nursing home for rehab, was in the rehab for 2 days. Took her back to the hospital & I requested to do a CT scan for possible mild stroke and came out she have a brain cancer. Dr thought there might be a cancer somewhere else that spread to her brain then they found out she have a lung cancer. What I don't understand, her Pulm Dr told me that her chest CT scan back in March has no sign of cancer so in just less than 3 months- why stage 1V? When it comes to your health you just have to be in charge. Nowadays just a few doctors really cares about there job & knows what they r doing otherwise most of them r just doing their guessing game.
—Guest Yolanda

Scapula pain

Went to doctor with scapula pain sent to physio 4weeks later chest X-ray for routine tb screen showed lung cancer. Editor's note: Shoulder blade pain can be a symptom of lung cancer and is often misdiagnosed as something else.
—Guest Kay

Early symptoms ignored by Doctors

Diagnosed with small cell carcinoma after being treated by two doctors for two years for Bronchitis due to allergies to dust mites. No Xrays taken, until I asked for one. Yes, after two years the Xray showed a mass in my left lung. A PET scan showed a new nodule in my right lung. Started my first round of strong Chemo and will start my second round shortly. No fun!! I was diagnosed December 26th, 2012. No surgery, just Chemo and then, perhaps Radiation. Prognosis could be less than a year! All because two doctors did not catch the first nodule! If you are still in doubt about your lungs or health, pursue another avenue!!

Pain in right lung and shoulder

I kept having pain in my right lung sometimes so bad I had to lay down to get it to stop, short winded especially when walking & pain in my right shoulder. I never even thought of lung cancer & if it hadn't been for a chest xray I would have never found it early. I was diagnoised on Sept. 26th, 2012 had 3 rounds of chemo & 6 1/2 wks of radiation. The Dr. says I'm in remission but i'm bot so sure because I still have the pain in my right shoulder, coughing up dark green & bloody phlegm & now very horase. I have made appt. with a new Dr. because the one I have won't listen to me. I will start radiation on my brain March 4th as a preventive due to this small cell carcinoma usually going to the brain. I will pray for all on this board because prayer is the best cure. Editor's note: I am glad you are being an advocate for yourself and looking for a doctor who will listen to you. I will keep you in my prayers as well.


Question? What is clubbing of the fingernails? I am in remission from small cell carcinoma so the Dr. said but I am having pain in my right shoulder & now hoarse to. I dropped my Dr. & have appt. with another Dr. the 13th of March & sincerely hope he turns our better. Editor's note: I hope it turns out better for you also. Clubbing is a build up of tissue in the fingers which causes the ends of the fingers to become enlarged and "club like" or like an upside-down spoon. It often occurs in people with heart or lung conditions that result in a decreased oxygen level in the blood, although it is sometimes seen as an inherited trait in healthy people.

Shoulder pain, Wheezing, Winded

The 1st signs of lung cancer I had but didn't know it was cancer was pain in my right shoulder, wheezing, short winded when walking. I called an ambulance one day due to breathing problems that I thought had to do with my heart because I have heart problems. The ambulaance driver refused to take me to the hospital so my hubby did. They found I was in kidney failure. They also took a routine chest xray & found a couple of spots on my right lung. The Dr. told me to get my primary Dr. to do a ct scan on my right lung. He did then called me and said he was sorry then referred me to a pulmonary Dr. He ordered a biopsy & thats when I found out I had small cell lung cancer.


Hi I have not been diagnosed with cancer but have an appointment this week and going to ask for a chest X-ray. I am only 26 but I smoke and have had pain in lower ribs and upper back. Also just started getting pains in upper left chest and arm and back when I breathe in heavily. I have seen doctor about my back pain a couple times in the last few months but been dismissed as muscular. I cough up a lot of phlegm too. I am very worried but suffer from anxiety and panic disorder as well so don't know if this could be causing my symptoms :/ Editor's note: There are a multitude of things that could be responsible for your symptoms. What's clear though is that you need your doctors to address all of your symptoms carefully and not fail to address them. Muscular problems don't cause people to cough up phlegm. Lung cancer is uncommon at age 26 and is unlikely to be the cause -- BUT, young people can get lung cancer.
—Guest Amz

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What Were Your Early Symptoms of Lung Cancer?

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