Lung cancer: diverse clinical signs that are difficult to identify

The lung is a deep organ and signs of disease are identified at a late stage. This explains why more than half of patients suffering from lung cancer are diagnosed once metastasis has already occurred.

Any clinical signs occurring in a patient - and all the more so if the patient has been exposed to tobacco - mean that a diagnosis of lung cancer must be considered, and an x-ray and/or chest scan must be performed to obtain the diagnosis at the earliest possible stage, in order to implement curative treatments which will guarantee prolonged survival.

A normal chest x-ray does not fully eliminate the hypothesis of cancer, and this test must be followed by a chest scan if there is strong suspicion.

The clinical signs are very varied, which explains why cancer can be diagnosed in a variety of circumstances.

Some symptoms are directly related to the tumor, such as breathing difficulties, coughing, bloody sputum, lingering bronchitis and recurring pneumonia. These signs are not specific and may be found with other diseases.

Other symptoms are related to a locoregional spread of the tumor, such as pain in the chest wall or shoulder, headaches, edema (swelling) of the face, neck and collarbone hollows, turgescence of jugular veins, difficult or blocked swallowing, altered speech and hiccups.

Some symptoms are due to the metastases, such as fatigue, weight loss, appetite loss, headache, paralysis and bone pain.