Can You Recognize The Early Warning Signs of Lung Cancer


By: Eric Piwowar

5 Min Quiz

Image: Stock Photo - Mark Kostich / E+ / Getty Images

About This Quiz

According to the National Institute of Health, approximately 38.4% of all people will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lifetimes, with lung cancer being the second most common cancer according to estimated new cancer cases in 2018. The American Cancer Society estimates that lung cancer is by far the leading cause of cancer death in the United States with about 142,670 deaths resulting from lung cancer in 2019.

But the overall cancer death rate in the United States has been dropping since the early '90s, falling 26% between 1991-2015. This is thanks to advanced new medical technologies, improved treatment options, and a better understanding of the topic amongst Doctors, patients, and the general public.

While there is no sure way to prevent lung cancer, educating yourself on the topic and talking to your doctor could help you identify the early warning signs and save yours or a loved one's life. So, do you know the early warning signs of lung cancer?

Disclaimer: The information on this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images and information, contained on or available through this web site is for general information purposes only.

True or false: Losing weight without trying is a potential symptom of lung cancer?

Losing weight is a goal of many people, and while it is usually a great way to improve your overall health, losing weight without trying could potentially be caused by your body burning extra calories to fight off a tumor without you realizing it. Cancer-related weight loss that happens when a patient makes no efforts to loose weight or no changes to their diet is called cachexia, and can cause someone to wither away as their body tries to heal itself. If you or a loved one experience a sudden lack of appetite or weight loss, you should schedule an appointment to see a doctor.


What are the two major types of lung cancer?

There are two major types of lung cancer cells; small cell and non-small cell. Small cell lung cancer is less common than non-small cell cancer and mostly occurs in heavy smokers. According to the Mayo Clinic, non-small cell lung cancer is a broad term used to classify multiple forms of lung cancer that behave in similar ways. These forms of lung cancer include squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma and large cell carcinoma.


What type of pain accompanies a tumor putting pressure on the top of your lungs?

Shoulder pain can occur if a lung tumor grows and puts pressure on the top of the lungs and the nerves in the armpit. This pressure will often result in aches, tingling, and pain sensations that shoot down the shoulder, inner arm, and hands. Related pain conditions include tenderness and soreness of the rib cage, especially near the armpits. Swollen lymph nodes, general body aches, and facial swelling can also accompany cancer-related shoulder and arm pain.


What kind of chest pain is potentially a symptom of lung cancer?

One prime symptom of lung cancer is chest pain that’s felt deep in the lungs when you lift something, cough or laugh, and/or persistent pain in the chest that doesn’t go away. This type of pain could occur due to a growing tumor pressing against surrounding tissues and nerve endings in the chest as it increases in size. If you experience any of these symptoms, schedule an appointment to see a doctor.


Can hand and finger pain signal lung cancer?

Fatigue and pain in fingers may be two early warning signs of lung cancer that tend to be overlooked. In the majority of cases, when the skin of the palms thickens and becomes white with pronounced folds (a condition called “tripe palms” due to the appearance), cancer is present. Tripe palms are associated with both stomach cancer and lung cancer.


Which of these is not a known way to prevent lung cancer?

E-cigarettes, or vape pens, are new electronic devices used to inhale aerosols similar to traditional cigarette smoking. According to the American Cancer Society, more research is needed to determine what the long-term health effects are of using e-cigarettes. While it may seem logical that replacing traditional cigarettes for a device that's lower in the cancer-causing chemicals found in traditional cigarettes is healthier, there still isn't enough evidence to say that e-cigarettes do not cause cancer.


According to the Mayo Clinic, which of these is not a symptom of lung cancer?

While swelling in the face and neck can occur due to a tumor in the lungs secreting hormones, fits of sneezing are not a symptom of lung cancer. You should schedule an appointment with your doctor if you are coughing up blood or have shortness of breath as both symptoms are very serious medical conditions, especially if they accompany one another. Hoarseness is also a potential symptom of lung cancer as Healthline explains it may point to something more serious when it persists for more than two weeks.


Which of these is not a carcinogen capable of causing lung cancer?

This one is a trick question as arsenic, chromium and nickel are all capable of causing cancer. According to the Mayo Clinic, workplace exposure to these carcinogens, especially asbestos, can increase your risk of developing lung cancer, especially if you're a smoker.


When should you see your doctor about a stubborn cough with no other apparent cause that won't go away?

A stubborn cough that won't go away is a common symptom for a variety of health conditions, but a cough with no other apparent cause that won't go away could indicate something serious even if it is a dry cough. You shouldn't pass off a dry cough with no apparent cause if it has lasted for a few weeks, and Healthline advises that you should make an appointment to see a doctor immediately if you begin to cough up blood or an unusual amount of mucus, particularly any rust-colored phlegm.


What is usually one of the earliest warning signs of lung cancer?

VeryWell Health explains that back pain is usually one of the first symptoms to arise as it "may be caused by pressure from a tumor, irritation of nerve roots, spread to bones in the spine, or adrenal metastases — the spread of cancer to these small organs that sit on top of the kidneys." People who do experience back pain that is related to lung cancer will find the pain is typically localized to their mid to upper back and that it’s worse at night while lying on the back or after a lot of movement. Healthline points out that bone pain doesn’t have to be limited to the back. It can also occur in the shoulder, arm, or neck, but it’s not as common. Keep tabs on any bone pain or body aches that seem unusual and have them checked out by a doctor.


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