Signs and Symptoms of Lung Cancer

The main goal at the Siteman Cancer Center is to get a correct diagnosis of your condition and decide what treatment is needed. Specialists here excel in using the technology and experience to make an accurate diagnosis, often down to the genetic level so the best treatment options for you may be identified.

Estimate your risk for lung cancer.

Lung Cancer Signs and Symptoms

  • Chest discomfort or pain.
  • A cough that doesn’t go away or gets worse over time.
  • Trouble breathing or wheezing.
  • Blood in sputum (mucus coughed up from the lungs).
  • Hoarseness.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Weight loss for no known reason.
  • Feeling very tired.
  • Trouble swallowing.
  • Swelling in the face and/or veins in the neck.
  • Symptom from spread of cancer
    • Bone pain or breakage from spreading to the bone
    • Seizures from brain metastases

Learn more about our lung cancer screening program.

Risk Factors

  • Smoking cigarettes, pipes, or cigars now or in the past.
  • Being exposed to secondhand smoke.
  • Having a family history of lung cancer.
  • Having previous lung disease.
  • Being treated with radiation therapy to the breast or chest.
  • Being exposed to asbestos, chromium, nickel, arsenic, soot or tar in the workplace.
  • Being exposed to radon in the home or workplace.
  • Living where there is air pollution.
  • Being infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
  • Using beta carotene supplements and being a heavy smoker.
  • Smoking combined with other risk factors.


Determining the exact type and stage of lung cancer often takes more than one approach. Patients are scheduled for a diagnostic workup within two days of referral to the Siteman lung cancer program. If you have had X-rays or laboratory tests done, you should bring those with you. The diagnostic evaluation of a chest cancer usually includes a mediastinoscopy, a simple operation to insert a scope to sample lymph nodes below the neck. Depending on the location of the tumor the doctor may do a variety of tests, including examination of the chest, lungs or esophagus with a lighted instrument, and other radiology tests.