Signs and Symptoms of Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States both among both men and women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People who smoke have the greatest risk of lung cancer.

The risk of lung cancer increases with the length of time and number of cigarettes you've smoked. If you quit smoking, even after smoking for many years, you can significantly reduce your chances of developing lung cancer.


Lung cancer typically doesn't cause signs and symptoms in its earliest stages. Signs and symptoms of lung cancer typically occur only when the disease is advanced.

Signs and symptoms of lung cancer may include:

  • A cough that doesn't go away
  • Changes in a chronic cough or "smoker's cough"
  • Coughing up blood
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Wheezing
  • Hoarseness
  • Losing weight without exercise
  • Bone pain
  • Headache

Risk Factors

A number of factors may increase your risk of lung cancer. Some risk factors can be controlled, such as quitting smoking. Other factors can't be controlled, such as your family history. Risk factors for lung cancer include:


Smoking remains the greatest risk factor for lung cancer. Your risk of lung cancer increases with the number of cigarettes you smoke each day and the number of years you have smoked. Quitting at any age can significantly lower your risk of developing lung cancer.

Exposure to Secondhand Smoke

Even if you don't smoke, your risk of lung cancer increases if you're exposed to secondhand smoke.

Exposure to Radon Gas

Radon is produced by the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water that eventually becomes part of the air you breathe. Unsafe levels of radon can accumulate in any building including homes. Radon testing kits, which can be purchased at home improvement stores, can determine whether levels are safe. If unsafe levels are discovered, remedies are available.

Exposure to Asbestos and Other Chemicals

Workplace exposure to asbestos and other substances known to cause cancer — such as arsenic, chromium and nickel — also can increase your risk of developing lung cancer, especially if you're a smoker.

Family History of Lung Cancer

People with an immediate family member who has or had lung cancer (and who does not or did not smoke) may be at a higher risk of developing the disease.

Excessive Alcohol Use

Drinking more than a moderate amount of alcohol — more than one drink a day for women or two drinks a day for men — may increase your risk of lung cancer.

Certain Smoking-related Lung Diseases

Smokers with certain lung diseases may have an increased risk of lung cancer.

If you need a referral to a physician at Palmdale Regional Medical Center, call our free physician referral service at 1-800-851-9780.