Home > Health Topics > Lung Cancer
 Definition | Causes | Symptoms | Diagnosis | Treatment | Prevention References
Lung Cancer : Symptoms
Western Medicine Chinese Medicine
Because the lungs are a large organ and lung cancers usually start off as very small tumours, many people experience only vague symptoms such as a chronic cold or cough. In some cases, lung cancers are picked up during a routine chest X-ray in people who have no idea they have a serious disease. When symptoms do appear, the most common symptom is a persistent cough that is not associated with another type of illness or a change in a chronic cough (particularly in smokers who usually have chronic coughs).

Common symptoms include:
Chronic cough
Coughing up blood or rusty-colored sputum
Weight loss & loss of appetite
Shortness of breath
Fever for no obvious reason
Difficulty swallowing
Chronic bronchitis and /or pneumonia that does not improve with the usual treatments

These features are seen in many other lung diseases so the only way to find out the cause is to undergo thorough investigation by a qualified healthcare provider.

Lung cancer can be divided into 5 different syndromes. The symptoms will differ depending on the syndrome each individual has.

1. Yin Deficiency and Interior Heat Syndrome
Symptoms include a cough without sputum or a cough with thick sputum. The sputum can appear blood stained. Breathlessness, chest pain, a dry mouth and throat, a hoarse voice, mild fever and night sweats may also be present. Individuals may feel distracted or have insomnia. The tongue appears flushed or dark red and has a little or no coating. The pulse feels rapid and thready.

2. Spleen Deficiency and Phlegm Dampness Syndrome
Symptoms include a cough that produces a lot of sputum and chest tightness accompanied by shortness of breath. These individuals usually feel weak and fatigued and have pale complexions. Weight loss and loose stools are also common. Their tongues appear pale and bulging and have an indented margin. A white and greasy fur coating may also be present. The pulse feels soft and moderate or soft and rolling.

3. Deficiency of Qi and Yin Syndrome
Symptoms include a low and weak sounding cough, which produces a small amount of sputum, which can be bloodstained. These individuals can experience shortness of breath, fatigue and weakness. They are thirsty but lack the desire to drink and may sweat spontaneously or have night sweating. The tongue appears light red or red with an indented margin, and the pulse feels thready and weak.

4. Deficiency of Yin and Yang Syndrome
Respiratory symptoms include a cough, shortness of breath, dyspnea (difficulty breathing) and/or tachypnea (rapid breathing) with exercise. Tinnitus (ringing in the ears), body aches, lower back (lumbar) or knee weakness, urinary frequency at night may also be present. Individuals can have an aversion to cold and have cold limbs. General fatigue and weakness are also not uncommon. The tongue appears light or dark red with a thin fur coating, and the pulse feels deep and faint.

5. Stagnation of Qi and Blood Stasis Syndrome
Symptoms include difficulty coughing and expectorating bloodstained sputum, chest tightness, tachypnea (rapid breathing), chest pain and distension and abdomen pain located in a fixed position. Purple veins show on the neck and chest. Lips and nails are dark coloured. Constipation with dry and hard stools may also be present. The tongue appears dark red and may have either ecchymosis (bruise) or petechiae (pinpoint bruises) with a yellowish thin coating. The pulse will feel taut or uneven.