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Small-Cell Lung Cancer (cont.)

Small-Cell Lung Cancer Symptoms

People with small-cell lung cancer typically have had symptoms for a relatively short time (8-12 weeks) before they visit their doctor.

The symptoms can result from local growth of the tumor, spread to nearby areas, distant spread, paraneoplastic syndromes, or a combination thereof.

Symptoms due to local growth of the tumor include the following:

Symptoms due to spread of the cancer to nearby areas include the following:

  • Hoarseness of voice, resulting from compression of the nerve that supplies the vocal cords
  • Shortness of breath, resulting from compression of the nerve that supplies the muscles of the diaphragm or severe shortness of breath, and stridor (sound produced by turbulent flow of air through a narrowed part of the respiratory tract), resulting from compression of the trachea (windpipe) and larger bronchi (airways of the lung)
  • Difficulty swallowing, resulting from compression of the esophagus (food pipe)
  • Swelling of the face and hands, resulting from compression of the superior vena cava (vein that returns deoxygenated blood from the upper body)

Symptoms due to distant cancer spread depend on the site of spread and include the following:

  • Spread to the brain can cause headache, blurring of vision, nausea, vomiting, and weakness of any limb.
  • Spread to the vertebral column can cause central back pain.
  • Spread to the spinal cord can cause paralysis.
  • Spread to the bone can cause bone pain.
  • Spread to the liver can cause pain in the right upper part of the abdomen.

Symptoms due to paraneoplastic syndromes include the following:

  • Symptoms may or may not be characteristic of a specific organ system.
  • Nonspecific symptoms include fatigue, loss of appetite, and weight loss.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/17/2015
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