If you develop any symptoms or signs that you think could be due to lung cancer like a persistent cough, you must report them immediately to your GP. This is even more important if you are a smoker. Early detection could save lives. Your GP will examine you and refer you urgently to have a chest x-ray or see a chest physician. Sometimes, your GP may give you a trial of antibiotics for one or two weeks before she/he refer you.
In 2015, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published guidelines to help GPs recognise the signs and symptoms of lung cancer and refer people for the right tests faster. To find out if you should be referred for further tests for suspected lung cancer, read the NICE 2015 guidelines on Suspected Cancer: Recognition and Referral.
Common symptoms of lung cancer are:
- a persistent or worsening cough
- coughing up phlegm that has blood in it
- repeated chest infections that do not respond to antibiotics
- pain when coughing or breathing
- loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss
- extreme tiredness or fatigue.
There are less common symptoms and signs of lung cancer but important to be aware of like:
- changes in the appearance of your fingers, such as becoming more curved or their ends becoming larger (this is known as finger clubbing)
- a high temperature (fever) of 38C (100.4F) or above
- difficulty swallowing or pain when swallowing
- a hoarse voice
- swelling of your face or neck
- persistent chest or shoulder pain
It is important to remember that these symptoms can be caused by conditions other than cancer. However, if you are experiencing any of these symptoms you should see your GP who may refer you to have further investigation.