9 uncommon signs of lung cancer
The common signs of lung cancer are well known. Some of them include cough, fatigue, breathlessness, and chest pain. However, there are many symptoms of lung cancer that are not as well-known or documented in a host of content on the internet. Like other malignancies, detecting lung cancer in its early stages increases the chances of a successful treatment. Therefore, here are some of the uncommon signs of lung cancer that one should be aware of:
1. Clubbed fingers
Arguably, the strangest of all lung cancer symptoms is the phenomenon called finger clubbing. In this symptom, the fingertips of an individual with lung cancer become fatter than usual. The fingers also tend to appear rounder, and the fingernails begin to appear more and more bent with time. This clubbing mainly happens because the tumor in the lung secretes a chemical that directs more fluid and blood to a person’s finger tissue. Healthcare research studies have found that about 8 out of every 10 cases of finger clubbing happen to people with lung cancer.
2. Puffiness in the face, arms, and neck
In many instances, lung cancer tumors can often obstruct the superior vena cava, a significant vein that carries blood from the head and arms to the heart. When this vein is blocked, more and more blood starts getting trapped in the upper half of the body. Some of the blood even rises up to the face and neck. This accumulation of blood results in a disproportionate swelling of one’s face, arms, and neck. Apart from puffiness, these areas also attain a bluish-red discoloration. The puffiness tends to worsen as the disease progresses over time.
3. Aches in various parts of the body
Lung cancer has a high capacity for metastasizing, which means it can quickly and subtly spread to other parts of the body. It’s difficult to distinguish between lung cancer and malignancies in other parts of the body. One sign that the cancer has spread is experiencing aches in different parts of the body. For example, a person with undetected lung cancer may wake up one day with excruciating pain in their bones. Tumors that have metastasized to the bones make them brittle and susceptible to damage. Hypercalcemia, a bone condition, can also cause acute weakness and pain in people.
4. Balance problems
Balance-related issues are not commonly associated with the lungs, which makes balance problems one of the uncommon signs of lung cancer. However, people with lung cancer might experience a sensation of instability or loss of balance caused directly by the lung cancer. Particularly, tumors located near the superior vena cava can trigger dizziness or loss of balance while performing simple tasks such as standing up or walking a few steps without support. In many cases, a loss of balance can be an indication that the cancer has progressed beyond its initial stage and grade.
5. Bone strain
Individuals suffering from lung cancer often experience bone pain, itchiness, or weakness in the bones due to their disorder. Such individuals may find it challenging to differentiate between bone strain and muscle strain. Bone pain usually worsens while moving or lying down on one’s back. Bone pain is one of the clearest indicators of lung cancer, and yet not many people may be aware of it. This makes it one of the more uncommon signs of lung cancer.
6. Extreme thirst and frequent urination
Certain tumors originating in a person’s lungs create a protein that affects the parathyroid hormone produced in the parathyroid gland. This gland combines with the kidneys to regulate and optimize the calcium levels in a person’s body. However, lung cancer tumors disrupt this regulation and cause too much calcium to enter one’s bloodstream. This leads to hypercalcemia, a condition that involves an excessive amount of calcium being present in a person’s blood. Over a period of time, hypercalcemia causes people to be incredibly thirsty all the time and also makes them urinate a lot.
7. Digestive issues
When a person’s lung is affected by cancer, it can have various long-term effects on the digestive system as well. Though uncommon, these signs should not be overlooked. Hypercalcemia also tends to make people feel queasy or constipated more often than usual. As a result, people who have lung cancer usually do not feel like eating anything but feel thirsty quite a lot. Additionally, another protein produced by lung cancer tumors can seriously impact kidney function, which can result in nausea and abdominal cramps.
8. Mental health issues
While having lung cancer, in itself, is something that can debilitate a person’s mental well-being, this disorder also affects one’s mental health in other ways. Many studies have found that the odds of being diagnosed with small-cell lung cancer tend to trigger anxiety, dementia, and depression. These issues happen because of the way a lung cancer tumor affects a person’s immune system and hormones. Also, lung cancer can eventually metastasize and find its way up to a person’s brain, making them feel mentally unwell quite often.
Therefore, if a person is experiencing anxiety, panic attacks, or depression, more often than not, they need to screen themselves for this or any other cancer.
9. Tightening of knuckles
When the digits in a person’s hands thicken and become clubbed, the knuckles also become thick and stiff. So, movement becomes not only more challenging but also more painful due to this stiffness. This condition is called hypertrophic osteoarthropathy, and it is common among several types of cancers, especially lung cancer.
Apart from the ones mentioned above, some of the other underrated and uncommon symptoms of lung cancer include eye problems, deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, hoarseness in a person’s voice, headaches, pain in the limbs, paraneoplastic phenomena, and similar other signs and symptoms.