12. Persistent or recurring pneumonia
This may seem counterintuitive. Isn’t a chest infection itself a problem with the lungs and not also a symptom of a different lung disease? While a recurring chest infection, such as pneumonia, is incredibly bothersome in itself, it could also signify a very worrying underlying condition. This condition being lung cancer.
A person who has cancer has a weakened immune system. This means that they are more prone to infections. This is where pneumonia comes in. Pneumonia is an infection and can be caused by fungal, viral, bacterial or chemical sources. The infection can take hold either if one of these sources have made their way past the nose and throat into the lungs or if they have spread to the lungs from another part of the body.
Symptoms of pneumonia include coughing, chest pain, wheezing, lethargy, appetite loss, excessive mucous production, and many others. Differentiating between pneumonia and lung cancer can be quite troublesome as there are many symptoms which are common to both. To aid in diagnosis, doctors generally evaluate risk factors. Smoking is the primary cause of lung cancer while a weakened immune system leaves one at risk for pneumonia. Children, the elderly and cancer patients have weakened immune systems.
It has been made clear that pneumonia and lung cancer can almost be indistinguishable from one another. The point here is then, that if a person is suffering from recurring bouts of pneumonia it might be time to test for an underlying condition. There may be a biological or environmental reason for their weakened immune system which has made them increasingly more susceptible to the infection, but it could also be lung cancer.
13. Swelling of the face, neck or arms
Lung cancer in its early stages can be quite difficult to diagnose. This is because patients tend to only show symptoms once cancer has progressed and spread to other organs or body parts. There are some people who do display symptoms early on. These include coughing, chest pain, shortness of breath, and hoarseness. To name but a few.
While these symptoms do not generally appear early in the disease, they are common to most cancer patients. There are, however, some lung cancers which cause syndromes. A syndrome which is caused by lung cancer is one in which there are a group of specific symptoms. One of these is superior vena cava syndrome.
The superior vena cava is a vein that carries deoxygenated blood from the head and arms to the heart. It passes by the upper right lung. If there is a tumor in this part of the lung, it could apply pressure to this vein. This pressure could result in a pooling of blood in the vein which would cause swelling in the face, arms, and neck. The skin in these parts may even appear to be a blue or red color.
Some patients may even display neurological symptoms if this pooling is severe enough to affect the brain. These could be dizziness, headaches and a loss of consciousness. Clearly, this syndrome is specific to lung cancer patients who have a tumor in a specific region. It is, however, a set of symptoms which should not be ignored. The progression of this condition is generally gradual, but there are cases where it can progress rapidly, thus requiring immediate medical attention.
There are no nerve endings in the lungs. This means that a person can have a large tumor in their lungs without even noticing it. This, combined with the fact that lung cancer patients rarely display early stage symptoms, makes early diagnosis almost unheard of. This alone can be life-threatening, as growing tumors intrude on blood vessels and thus shunt blood away from healthy tissue. The other problem associated with lung cancer is, given enough time, cancer can metastasize.
Metastatic cancer is one which has spread to another part of the body. It is named according to where cancer first formed. This is because when a tumor is examined, it has cells which are specific to the original growth site. A tumor spreads when its size has increased substantially enough to require further space for growth. Cancer can metastasize by either intruding on the tissue which is nearby or by breaking off and traveling via the bloodstream or lymphatic system to a completely different part of the body.
Lung cancer can metastasize to the liver. This would then result in a completely different set of symptoms, which are totally apart from lung disease symptoms. These could include nausea following eating, a pain under the right ribs and lastly, jaundice.
Jaundice is caused by unnatural amounts of bilirubin in the blood, this is what results in the yellow appearance of the eyes and skin. This condition clearly signifies a problem with one’s liver as it is liver cells which process and aid in the excretion of bilirubin. Jaundice does not always signify lung cancer. But, the liver is a common sight for lung cancer metastasis and it could very well be because of lung cancer.
15. Upper back pain
The lungs are situated in the back. With this placement in mind, it is odd to note that when a person experiences back pain they do not consider it to be an implication of lung disease. Granted, this pain in the back can be simply that, back pain. It could also point to an underlying pulmonary issue.
If a person is battling a chest infection, it is very common for them to experience pain or discomfort in their upper back. This could be when lying down when breathing deeply or coughing. While this is inconvenient and adds to the discomfort of the illness, it is at least known and diagnosed.
This kind of is also generally mechanical in nature and is simply due to the strain put on the muscles when one has a chest infection. There is, however, another kind of back pain which originates in the lungs. This is categorized as referred back pain and it could indicate an underlying or emergent lung condition. The distinction lies in when the pain in the back is predominantly felt.
If a person is able to twist and move their spine without worsening the pain, then it is most likely a pain which is originating in the lungs. This is obviously not true all the time. It is possible for a person to be able to move their spine, while still having pain which has its source in the back and its muscles as opposed to the lungs. A correct diagnosis can only be made by a doctor, after a full physical examination. Non-mechanical back pain still ought to be treated as a sign or symptom of lung disease.