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March 29, 2021

11 Surprising Signs of Lung Cancer You Need to Know

11 Surprising Signs of Lung Cancer You Need to Know

People often associate lung cancer with breathing problems like coughing, shortness of breath, or wheezing. Although such conditions are often early warning signs of the disease, lung cancer can also have other symptoms, ranging from frequent urination to dizziness to weight change.

At Affiliated Oncologists, we strive to help patients in the Chicagoland area diagnose cancer early so they can be treated more effectively. Understanding these unusual lung cancer symptoms can help you stay informed about the disease. While many of these surprising symptoms aren’t exclusive to lung cancer, if you are having any of them, it’s best to be safe and consult a doctor.

Risk Factors of Lung Cancer

First, it’s important to note if you are at higher risk for lung cancer. Some factors such as being a smoker, living with a smoker, or certain chemical exposure (such as radon) can cause lung cancer. While these things may be risk factors, there are also other more surprising signs of lung cancer you should know about.

Surprising Signs of Lung Cancer

  1. Shoulder and Arm Pain
  2. Drooping Eyelid
  3. Finger Clubbing
  4. Puffiness in the Face, Arms and Neck
  5. Dizziness/Tiredness
  6. Stomach Aches Not Associated with Diet or a Virus
  7. Frequent Urination and Thirst
  8. Achiness and Weakness
  9. Unexplained Weight Gain or Loss
  10. Hoarseness/Difficulty Speaking

Shoulder and Arm Pain

Most pain in the shoulder and arm has nothing to do with lung cancer. However, in rare instances, these symptoms may result from Pancoast tumors. These tumors form at the top of the lungs and often spread to surrounding areas, like the vertebrae or ribs. Initially, they may produce a sharp and constant pain in the shoulder, which can later expand to the inner arm, hand, and fingers.

Drooping Eyelid (Horner’s syndrome)

Pancoast tumors can also interfere with nerves connected to the face and eyes, leading to a condition known as Horner’s syndrome. It causes a drooping, tired-looking eyelid on one side of the face, a smaller pupil, and the absence of sweat on the affected side. It is likely your friends, or family members will notice this symptom right away.

Finger Clubbing

One of the strangest symptoms of lung cancer is finger clubbing, where the fingertips become fatter, rounder and the nails appear more bent. This condition arises when a tumor secretes a hormone-like chemical that drives more blood and fluid to the finger tissue. Roughly 80% of finger clubbing cases are caused by lung cancer. If you have this symptom, contact your doctor immediately.

Puffiness in the Face, Arms, and Neck

Sometimes tumors can block off the superior vena cava, a large vein that carries blood from the head and arms to the heart. When this occurs, blood gets trapped in the upper body, resulting in swelling of the face, neck, and arms. It may also produce a bluish-red discoloration on the chest. The swelling may start in one area and move to others as the condition gets worse.


Blockage of the superior vena cava, resulting in disruption of blood flow, can induce severe dizziness and loss of balance. Lung cancer can also lead to anemia, which often causes dizziness and fatigue.

Stomach Aches Not Associated with Diet or a Virus

In certain cases, tumors can produce a hormone that behaves like the parathyroid hormone that regulates calcium levels. When this happens, the body begins producing too much calcium in the bloodstream, called hypercalcemia. It can cause stomach aches, constipation, and overall discomfort. Loss of appetite may occur.

Frequent Urination and Thirst

Another consequence of hypercalcemia is frequent urination. The more calcium circulating in your bloodstream, the more your kidneys have to work to filter it, resulting in more urination. This, in turn, leads to persistent thirst and dehydration. You may feel like you can never quench your thirst.

Achiness and Weakness

Because you can’t often tell if you have lung cancer it can spread to other areas of the body, including the bones, without obvious signs until you start to feel achy or weak for no apparent reason. The spread of cancer may also form new tumors. When this occurs, the tumors often damage the bones, making them more fragile and inducing an aching sensation. Hypercalcemia can also cause widespread weakness and pain.

Unexplained Weight Gain or Loss

Those suffering from SCLC sometimes have a condition known as Cushing’s Syndrome. This occurs when cancer produces a hormone called ACTH, which raises the body’s cortisol levels. High cortisol levels cause fluid retention and, consequently, weight gain.

Sudden Desire to Quit Smoking

A surprising study published in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology found that of the lung cancer patients surveyed, 48% of them had quit smoking prior to their diagnosis, many of them without any difficulty. Although the reason for this isn’t fully established, the researchers speculated that lung cancer cells might produce substances that interfere with nicotine addiction which made smoking less desirable.

Hoarseness/Difficulty Speaking

A lung cancer tumor has the potential to disrupt your speech by putting pressure on the nerves controlling the vocal cords. This may result in a softer or raspier voice, as well as difficulty in making certain sounds.

What to Do if You Notice Unusual Symptoms

Because lung cancer can be present for a while without showing obvious symptoms, these lung cancer symptoms are unexpected but important to understand. Many symptoms, like stomach aches, aren’t easily recognizable as signs of a serious illness. The good news is, the more informed you are about the disease, the more likely you will be to get diagnosed earlier. The earlier you are diagnosed, the more treatment options your doctors will have.

If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms and are worried about their possible links to lung cancer, it’s important to speak with your primary care doctor. This is especially important if you are a smoker or a past smoker since it is one of the leading causes of lung cancer. We’ll perform a thorough evaluation of your symptoms, review your medical history, and perform the necessary diagnostic tests.

In the fight against dangerous diseases, knowledge is your best weapon.

Categories: Lung Cancer