Signs and Symptoms of Small Cell Lung Cancer
The presenting symptoms of small cell lung cancer are not very specific in nature, but if they persist for a few weeks, it is important to get them examined by a physician. In typical cases, the presenting symptoms may show up for a brief period of time ranging from two to three months before the patient is examined for small-cell lung cancer. Different types of symptoms may present themselves due to different reasons such as the local presence of the tumor, the tumor spread to nearby or distant sites, or due to paraneoplastic syndrome.
Symptoms Resulting from Local Tumor Growth
Cough: One of the most common presenting symptoms of small cell lung cancer is cough, which may present itself in up to 75 percent of the cases. Cough is essentially a non-specific symptom but if it is persistent and worsens in terms of quantity and quality, it may be a sign of an underlying local tumor.
Haemoptysis: Another key presenting symptom of this cancer is if the patient coughs up blood or blood stained sputum. Again, this is not a specific symptom, but it helps to draw attention towards the possibility of small cell lung cancer. Nearly 35 percent of all patients may show this symptom.
Dyspnea: Shortness of breath and wheezing is another common symptom that may occur in about 60 percent of cases. It is a distressing symptom causing breathlessness and unilateral wheezing.
Chest Pain: Some patients may experience non-specific discomfort or pain in the chest. This vague pain may persist for a month or two without any signs of subsiding, and it may worsen upon deep breathing. This should be treated as one of the symptoms of small cell lung cancer and evaluated accordingly.
Recurring Pneumonia: If the patient suffers from pneumonia that does not resolve in normal course of treatment, or recurs continuously, it should be treated as one of the symptoms of possible small cell lung cancer.
Symptoms Resulting from Spread of Cancer
Some of the common presenting symptoms of small cell lung cancer include the patient’s voice becoming hoarse, breathlessness, and difficulties in swallowing. Hoarseness occurs due to the compressing of the nerve that is connected with the vocal cords. Another nerve that is connect with the muscles of the diaphragm may also get compressed, which may cause breathlessness. If the food pipe gets compressed, the patient may experience difficulties in swallowing food or liquids.
In some cases, the patient may experience unexplained swelling in the hands and the face. This may be caused due to compressing of the vein that sends de-oxygenated blood from the upper portions of the body. There are other symptoms that may present depending on the area or the organ of the body where the cancer has spread. If the cancer spreads to the brain area, the patient may experience headaches, blurred vision, feeling of vomiting and nausea, and limb weakness. Tiredness, lack of appetite and unexplained weight loss may be some other non-specific symptoms of small-cell lung cancer.