Lung Cancer Signs and Symptoms

Know the facts

  • It is known that smokers and ex-smokers have an increased risk of getting lung cancer.
  • One out of every seven people diagnosed each year have never smoked.
  • Passive smoking, or breathing in other people's smoke, increases your risk, but not as much as smoking yourself.
  • Contact with chemicals found in the workplace or environment, such as asbestos, radon and diesel exhaust fumes may also lead to an increase in lung cancer.

Know the risks

Lung cancer is the most common cancer in the world. In the UK, around 44,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. It is the most common cause of cancer death in the UK for both men and women. Everyone is at risk of developing lung cancer. 28% of lung cancer cases aren't caused by smoking.*

How do I reduce my risk?

  • Get help to stop smoking.
  • Reduce your exposure to second hand smoke.
  • Diet and exercise can be important.
  • Eat five portions of fruit and vegetables every day.
  • Reduce your fat intake.
  • Eat less salt and sugar.
  • Reduce how much alcohol you drink.
  • Take regular exercise.

What should I look for?

A cough is the most well known symptom of lung cancer, but there are others that you need to be aware of. These include:

  • Persistent cough
  • Ongoing chest infections
  • Feeling breathless for no reason
  • Chest or shoulder pains
  • Loss of appetite
  • Change in a long-term cough, or a cough that gets worse
  • Coughing up blood
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Unexplained fatigue or lack of energy
  • Hoarseness in voice

Our 'Symptoms Man' offers 10 simple signs of symptoms of lung cancer. 

Lung Cancer Signs and Symptoms


What do I do if I am worried?

Don't delay visiting your GP. It is most likely that this will be nothing serious and will put your mind at rest. If it is lung cancer, early diagnosis and treatment could save your life.

What will happen next?

  • It might help you to write down your symptoms before seeing your GP.
  • Your GP will want to examine you; listen to your breathing.
  • Your GP might request other tests such as an x-ray or sample of sputum (spit)
  • Your GP can fast track a referral to a lung specialist doctor, if your symptoms are suspicious. Under new NICE 2015 guidelines on Suspected Cancer: Recognition and Referral.
    In Scotland, Scottish referral guidelines for suspected cancer have been published by Health Improvement Scotland. To find out if you should be referred for further tests for suspected lung cancer, read the NICE 2015 guidelines
  • If symptoms continue and you are still worried, please discuss with your GP again.
  • Your GP will examine you. If you can write down your symptoms it will help you remember.

Lung Cancer Tests

  • Your GP may arrange for you to have a chest x-ray.
  • Your GP will talk through the results with you.
  • If your chest x-ray is clear but your symptoms continue or get worse and you are still concerned ask to see your GP again.
  • If you need more tests, your GP should make an appointment for you to see a chest specialist.

Lung cancer diagnosis

  • Diagnosing lung cancer early means that there are more treatment options which are generally more effective.
  • If you are diagnosed with lung cancer you will be referred onto a lung cancer team for treatment and care.

For more information about getting involved in lung cancer awareness, see our Campaigns section

*Cancer Research UK,, November 2018

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