This article was written by Stephanie Booth and provided by our partners at Prevention.
“The majority of people with lung cancer have a cough, occasionally with blood,” says McKenna. Bringing up thick, rust-colored mucus can also be an early sign. But even if you have a dry cough, if it’s lingered for over a month, it’s worth getting checked out.
Most of the time, viruses are to blame for lung infections like chronic bronchitis. But if you’re repeatedly getting sick and every illness seems to go straight to your chest, it could be a sign of cancer.
Dropping pounds without a change in your diet or workout? “As with any cancer,” notes McKenna, “a more advanced tumor may make proteins that tell your body to lose weight.” That’s why you may also notice a drop in your appetite.
If lung cancer has spread to other organs in your body, you may feel an ache deep down in your bones or joints, says Jack Jacoub, M.D., a medical oncologist and director of thoracic oncology at MemorialCare Cancer Institute at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California. The back and hips are common sore spots. (Though this may also be a sign of vitamin D deficiency.)
If a lung tumor begins pressing against your superior vena cava (the large vein that carries blood from your head and arms to your heart), you may notice swelling in your neck and face, says Jacoub. Your arms and upper chest can also be affected. (Want to pick up some healthier habits? Sign up to get healthy living tips delivered straight to your in-box!)
“This is different than feeling tired,” Jacoub notes. “It’s feeling so worn out that you can’t wait to climb into bed,” and getting lots of rest doesn’t help. As many as 80 percent of people with cancer note “excessive tiredness” as a symptom.
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Lung cancer affects your organs as well as your muscles. One of the first areas to be impacted: your hips. “You might find it hard to even get out of a chair,” says Jacoub. Weakness in the shoulders, arms, and legs is also typical.
While you’re thinking about your health, brush up on how to do a breast self-exam:
Certain lung cancers make hormone-like substances that upset the balance of minerals in your body. In some instances, says McKenna, excess calcium gets released into the bloodstream. While you may not realize your levels are through the roof until your doctor orders a lab test, you should notice the symptoms that go along with high calcium: frequent urination, excessive thirst, constipation, nausea, belly pain, and dizziness.