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9 Surprising Signs of Lung Cancer That Don’t Involve the Lungs

Topics: Lung Cancer

January 7, 2020

Lung Cancer Signs

Most people assume that symptoms of lung cancer are related strictly to the lungs and complications related to breathing. Sometimes this is accurate. Lung cancer often has symptoms like coughing up blood and mucus, shortness of breath, persistent cough, and chest pain. However, some symptoms seem to have nothing to do with the lungs. While there are many breathing-related symptoms of lung cancer, other surprising symptoms exist. Here are 9 surprising symptoms of lung cancer that don't involve the lungs.

9 Symptoms That Could Mean Lung Cancer

  1. Clubbing of the nails
  2. Hoarse voice or vocal changes
  3. Weakness or numbness of the arm and shoulder
  4. Extreme thirst and frequent urination
  5. Upper body swelling and bruising
  6. Quitting smoking is suddenly easy
  7. Horner syndrome
  8. Stomach issues
  9. Fatigue and dizziness

While these symptoms don't seem related to your lungs, there are other things happening in your body when you have lung cancer. Often, lung cancer has few symptoms before it's in the advanced stages. However, symptoms that occur throughout the body may be misdiagnosed as other illnesses. Learning about the symptoms of lung cancer can lead to early treatment which can save your life. These symptoms can be caused by other conditions, but they can be an indication of lung cancer. 

1. Clubbing of the Nails

Changes in your fingers and toes can happen quickly and could signify serious health issues. Clubbing of the nails occurs when the normal shape of your nail bulges or curves outward. The ends of your fingers or toes may appear to bulge and nails may not feel firmly attached. The change is due to excess soft tissue forming under the nail bed, pushing nails away from the skin.

Lung cancer is the most common cause of clubbing. The condition occurs because of reduced oxygen in the bloodstream. Clubbing of the nails generally occurs alongside other symptoms and can be caused by other health conditions like heart defects, chronic lung conditions, certain cancers, and thyroid problems. If you experience clubbed nails, you should visit your doctor. While this symptom doesn't mean you have lung cancer, your doctor will ask questions about other symptoms to help determine the cause.

2. Hoarse Voice

Changes in your voice that aren't because of obvious symptoms like a cold or sore throat could be a concern. Hoarseness is common in advanced cases of lung cancer and is sometimes caused by infections and side effects of chemotherapy. However, difficulty producing sounds may also be an early sign of lung cancer. The hoarseness is most often caused by paralysis of the recurrent laryngeal nerve, which passes through the chest close to the left lung.

3. Weakness or Numbness in Arms or Shoulder

Pain in your arm or shoulder without the presence of an injury could be a concern. Pancoast tumors develop in the top of the lung and can compress nerves that lead to your shoulder and arm. Shoulder pain may be sudden and intense or persistent with no apparent cause. Arm pain or weakness is less likely and usually develops over time.

4. Extreme Thirst and Frequent Urination

Thirst is common with the sudden onset of warmer weather, but sudden extreme thirst is a symptom that you should always discuss with your doctor. Some cancers can produce hormone-like substances that cause changes in the body. These substances can cause a group of symptoms referred to as paraneoplastic syndromes. These symptoms can be among the first signs of lung cancer. One such symptom is an increase of calcium in the blood which causes excessive thirst and frequent urination.

5. Upper Body Bruising and Swelling

While swelling and bruising are usually associated with injuries, there are other reasons the condition could occur. The superior vena cava is a large vein that carries blood from the head and arms back to the heart. Tumors pressing on this vein can lead to blood pooling in the veins. This pooling leads to swelling in the upper arms, chest, and neck. Puffy facial features may also be a symptom. The swelling is sometimes accompanied by a blue or red tinted skin.

6. You Suddenly Quit Smoking

It's no secret that most people who begin smoking have difficulty quitting. However, many patients end up quitting before getting a lung cancer diagnosis. While many patients quit smoking because they're hoping to alleviate symptoms like coughing or shortness of breath, many patients suddenly find quitting easy. Since patients suddenly have the ability to quit without difficulty, the symptom is likely caused by changes in the body related to cancer. If you would like help quitting smoking, read our blog for helpful tips

7. Horner Syndrome

Also caused by Pancoast Tumors, Horner Syndrome is caused when the tumors affect the nerves leading to the eye or face. Symptoms include:

  • Drooping or weakness of one eyelid
  • A smaller pupil
  • Reduced or absent sweating on the same side of the face as the affected eye

8. Stomach Issues

It seems like your digestive system shouldn't really be affected by your lungs at all. However, lung cancer can cause the body to produce hormone-like substances that change the way your body works. One or two out of every 10 cancer patients develop too much calcium in the blood. This can lead to nausea, belly pain, and constipation. 

9. Fatigue and Dizziness

Consistent fatigue and occasional dizziness may be caused by different reasons. Anemia (low levels of red blood cells) is common for lung cancer patients which causes chronic fatigue. Additionally, compression of the superior vena cava can affect the brain causing light-headedness or dizziness. 

All of these symptoms can have multiple causes. However, it's important to visit your doctor when you experience persistent medical changes. Lung cancer doesn't only affect smokers. In fact, it's the leading cause of cancer deaths among both men and women and often doesn't exhibit symptoms until it's in the advanced stages. Early detection and treatment is the best defense against any type of cancer. Watching for the symptoms of lung cancer can save your life. 

Arizona Oncology has offices located throughout the state, where you will receive state-of-the art lung cancer treatment in a caring and comfortable environment close to home, work, and family. Our team of physicians and cancer care specialists are ready to help you every step of the way. 

Arizona Oncology - The US Oncology Network