Signs and Symptoms of Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

This is one of two main forms of lung cancer, this one involving healthy cells that grow uncontrollably and form tumors. Non-small cell lung cancer, or known in short as NSCLC, accounts for up to 85-percent of lung cancer cases, according to the American Cancer Society.

It’s important for doctors to distinguish which type of lung cancer they’re dealing with early (even though many lung cancers don’t lead to symptoms until they’ve advanced) so they can start the appropriate treatment, which differs dramatically for both, adds the source. Here are seven signs you may be developing NSCLC, but never jump to conclusions – let a medical professional sort it out.

1. Endless Coughing

Smoking can often cause bouts of coughing, but if you’re not a smoker or notice your cough is getting worse, you should have it checked out. The American Cancer Society explains that a cough that gets worse or doesn’t go away is a sign of NSCLC.

The same source also notes you may notice you’re coughing up blood or “rust-colored” phlegm, which is also a telltale sign of this form a lung cancer. You’ll likely also experience pain when you’re coughing as well, it adds.

2. Weight Loss

If you have unexplained weight loss and you’ve been eating the same volume of food as always, it could be a sign of a bigger problem. Although many health conditions can lead you to lose weight, if you have some of the other symptoms mentioned in this article, you could be dealing with NSCLC.

The Canadian Cancer Society notes that while the stage of the cancer is important to the final outcome (stages 0 and 1 have a better survival rate), patients with NSCLC who have lost weight generally have a less favorable prognosis.

3. Neurological Symptoms

As mentioned before, sometimes lung cancers aren’t noticed by the patient until they’ve spread to other parts of the body. Cancer Treatment Centers of America explains that lung cancer may spread to the brain, where it can wreak havoc in other ways.

More specifically, headaches and seizures may result, adds the source. The patient may also experience numbness or weakness in arms and legs if the tumor is resting on a nerve, it explains.

4. Fatigue explains that feeling weak and tired could be tied to this form of lung cancer, but aren’t necessarily a sign the cancer has spread. “Cancer anywhere in the body can cause a person to feel unwell in a general way,” it explains.

This feeling of being “out of sorts” can also lead to loss of appetite, which could be responsible for the aforementioned weight loss, it adds. And of course, lack of eating will probably do nothing for your energy levels.

5. Aching Bones

A post on the U.S. National Library of Medicine explains that up to 40-percent of lung cancer patients will have the disease spread to their bones at some point. Unfortunately, it isn’t generally good news when cancer spreads to the bones – it accounts for up to 350,000 cancer patient deaths each year, notes the source.

The article says a study found that the most common site of skeletal metastases (spreading) was to the spine, occurring in about 50-percent of cases involving NSCLC. The ribs were the next most common place, it adds, noting pain is the first symptom of bone metastases in 80-percent of patients.

6. Clubbed Toes/Fingers

Reader’s Digest points out that another possible symptom associated with lung cancer is clubbing, which causes fingers and toes to get wider and rounder. “Lung cancer and heart disease decrease vascular resistance, which means blood flow to the small arteries in the toenails and fingertips will increase,” explains the source.

Clubbing can also be caused by other health conditions such as chronic lung infection and intestinal disease, it adds. Although patients “are typically aware they have a disease that is causing the clubbing,” it’s best to have it assessed by a medical pro, it adds.

7. Paraneoplastic Syndromes

These are a collection of symptoms that could actually be early warning signs of NSCLC, but some doctors may mistake them for another cause, explains the American Cancer Society.

The syndromes are a result of “hormone-like substances” entering the bloodstream, as a result of the lung cancer. These hormones can cause problems with other parts of the body, even though the cancer hasn’t actually spread to those areas, it adds. The syndromes may include high calcium levels (which carries a host of problems like dizziness and nausea), excess growth of bones that can be painful, and even blood clots, explains the cancer society.

Jeff Hayward

Jeff Hayward

Jeff has more than 15 years of experience writing professionally about health, travel and the arts among other subjects. He continuously looks to improve his own overall health through exercise, diet and mindfulness. He is also a proud stay-at-home dad that loves taking photographs both professionally and as a hobby.