What are the respiratory signs and symptoms of non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)?

Updated: Jun 05, 2020
  • Author: Winston W Tan, MD, FACP; Chief Editor: Nagla Abdel Karim, MD, PhD  more...
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Answer

Lung cancer is often insidious, producing no symptoms until the disease is well advanced. In approximately 7-10% of cases, lung cancer is diagnosed in asymptomatic patients when a chest radiograph performed for other reasons reveals the disease. At initial diagnosis, 20% of patients have localized disease, 25% of patients have regional metastasis, and 55% of patients have distant spread of disease.

Signs and symptoms of lung cancers may be due to the primary tumor, locoregional spread, metastatic disease, or ectopic hormone production (see the image below). Cough is reported to be the most common presenting symptom of lung cancer. Other respiratory symptoms include dyspnea, chest pain, and hemoptysis. Hemoptysis has been described as the one symptom often prompting more rapid presentation. [39]

Non–small cell lung cancer. Symptoms and signs of Non–small cell lung cancer. Symptoms and signs of lung cancer.

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