Many people know a cough that lasts for more than 3 weeks, breathlessness and/or fatigue could be a sign of lung cancer. But here are five lung cancer symptoms that you might not recognise.
1. Clubbing of the fingers
Finger clubbing is where the appearance of your fingers change and become more curved or the ends get larger.
Clubbing of the fingers isn’t what many would consider an obvious sign of lung cancer and yet lung cancer is the most common reason for fingers to club.
Clubbing often occurs in heart and lung diseases that reduce the amount of oxygen in the blood.
For Brian Gemmell, who was diagnosed with lung cancer nearly four years ago, clubbed fingers was his only symptom:
“I didn’t have what are considered your ‘common’ lung cancer symptoms. My initial symptom was clubbing of the fingers; the tips of my fingers were swelling up all the time. I googled it – as you do – and a respiratory problem flagged up. I went to my GP and he sent me for a chest x-ray that same day.
“I started to get concerned when I overheard the x-ray technician call for a radiographer. I was sent for CT scan and they found an advanced tumour in my right lung. The consultant was talking about a definitive biopsy but the surgeon just said no, the right lung was coming out and so it did, all of it.
“I am very fortunate that my GP was aware that finger clubbing was a symptom. GPs nine times out of 10 are the first port of call for somebody so it essential that they understand all the signs and symptoms in order to be able to refer you on to the next stage.
“I had an absolutely phenomenal GP; the first thing he did was send me for a chest x ray. There was no going anywhere else, no delay, and at the same time he referred me to a respiratory consultant. This knowledge and decisiveness ultimately saved my life. I know so many others are not as lucky.”
2. Swollen face
Many people will think a swollen face is the sign of an allergic reaction. However, swelling of the face can be caused by a superior vena cava obstruction, which is usually by lung cancer.
The superior vena cava is a large vein in the chest. It carries blood from the upper half of the body into the heart. A superior vena cava obstruction occurs when somethings stops the blood flowing. This is usually caused by lung cancer close to the vein. It may be pressing on the vein or it may have spread to the lymph nodes nearby. This blockages then causes the face to swell.
3. Backache / Shoulder pain
Backache is one of those things that we often explain away – ‘I pulled it when I was carrying that heavy shopping bag’, ‘I was training too hard’ or ‘it’s just a sign of getting older’. However, it can be a sign of lung cancer.
This surprises a lot of people as they tend to associate lungs with the chest rather than the back or shoulders. It certainly shocked Pat Tollady: