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Signs and Symptoms of the Last Stage of Lung Cancer

written by: R. Elizabeth C. Kitchen • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 3/31/2011

What are the last stage of lung cancer symptoms? Here we will list and discuss these in detail.

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    As the deadliest type of cancer for both genders, there were an estimated 222,520 new cases of lung cancer and 157,300 lung cancer deaths in 2010. Lung cancer is a type of cancer that develops in the lung's tissues, most often in the cells that line the air passages. Non-small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer are the most common types, with non-small cell being the most common. Last stage of lung cancer symptoms are often the most severe.

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    Malignant Pleural Effusion

    This symptom occurs when fluid containing cancer cells accumulate in the space that surrounds the lungs. This usually causes shortness of breath. To help improve the patient's comfort and make breathing a little easier, the fluid is typically drained. A procedure known as pleurodesis may be performed if fluid continues to accumulate. This procedure may help to prevent fluid from building up again.

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    Bone Pain

    This type of cancer often spreads to the bones, specifically those in the spine and chest. To control pain, medication are often prescribed. Sometimes patients benefit from radiation therapy to help prevent fractures or decrease pain.

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    Large Airway Bleeding or Obstruction

    When this type of cancer grows close to the airways, bleeding or obstruction may result from the tumor spreading into the airway. To control the bleeding or reduce the obstruction, radiation or a procedure may be performed.

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    Brain Metastases

    Last stage of lung cancer symptoms related to brain metastases may include seizures, headaches, speech problems, weakness and other neurological symptoms. This occurs when lung cancer metastasizes to the brain. To help ease symptoms and slow tumor growth, radiation therapy may be performed.

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    Emotional Symptoms

    During the last stage of this cancer, the patient may become more withdrawn. This could be due to the profound fatigue or due to feeling depressed. The patient may no longer be interested in activities he or she once loved. Patients may be irritable due to the physical limitations placed on them by fatigue, weakness and other symptoms.

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    Other Symptoms

    Almost all patients will lose weight. This is even true for patients who are eating enough calories. During the late stage, other symptoms may include difficulty swallowing, joint pain, shoulder pain, facial paralysis, bone tenderness or pain, nail problems, changing voice or hoarseness, swelling of the arms or face, or eyelid drooping.

    In the very late stages patients may not sense thirst or hunger, experience lowered body temperature, have irregular breathing and experience increased perspiration.

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    Resources

    PubMed Health. (2010). Lung Cancer. Retrieved on March 29, 2011 from PubMed Health: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0004529/

    MedlinePlus. (2011). Lung Cancer. Retrieved on March 29, 2011 from MedlinePlus: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/lungcancer.html

    National Cancer Institute. (2011). Lung Cancer. Retrieved on March 29, 2011 from the National Cancer Institute: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/lung