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Lung cancer usually starts in the lining of the bronchi (the main airways of the lungs), but can also begin in other areas of the respiratory system, including the trachea, bronchioles or alveoli. Lung cancers are believed to develop over a period of many years.

Nearly all lung cancers are carcinomas, a cancer that begins in the lining or covering tissues of an organ. The tumor cells of each type of lung cancer grow and spread differently, and each type requires different treatment.

Lung cancer usually does not cause symptoms when it first develops, but symptoms often become present after the tumor begins growing. A cough is the most common symptom of lung cancer. Other symptoms include:

  • Constant chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Recurring lung infections, such as pneumonia or bronchitis
  • Bloody or rust-colored sputum
  • Hoarseness
  • A tumor that presses on large blood vessels near the lung can cause swelling of the neck and face
  • A tumor that presses on certain nerves near the lung can cause pain and weakness in the shoulder, arm, or hand
  • Fever for unknown reason

Like many other cancers, lung cancer can cause:

  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of weight
  • Headache
  • Pain in other parts of the body not affected by the cancer
  • Bone fractures

Other symptoms can be caused by substances made by lung cancer cells – referred to as a paraneoplastic syndrome. For example, certain lung cancer cells produce a substance that causes a sharp drop in the level of sodium in the blood, which can cause many symptoms, including confusion and sometimes even coma.

None of these symptoms is a sure sign of lung cancer. Only a physician can tell whether a patient's symptoms are caused by cancer or by another problem.


Inova Thoracic Oncology Program specializes in diagnosing and treating lung cancer

Inova Thoracic Oncology Program's fellowship-trained surgical team is the region’s most experienced, with extensive experience in the latest minimally-invasive procedures for lung cancer treatment. The advanced surgical alternatives practiced at Inova result in far less trauma to patients in addition to quicker recoveries and higher survival rates. The program also focuses on an integrated, coordinated approach to care that includes all the disciplines involved in a patient's care. For more information, call 703-776-3777. Learn more online about Inova Thoracic Oncology Program arrow