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Effects of Lung Cancer: What is the Impact on Health?

Effects of Lung Cancer: What is the Impact on Health?

The effects of lung cancer on a person’s body depends on the person’s health, and what stage the cancer is. In its early stages, the effects of lung cancer can be barely noticeable. But in the latter stages, it can cause severe damage to a person’s lungs, or even spread throughout the body.

This is why it is important to be mindful of any unique or peculiar symptoms you experience and don’t hesitate to seek medical advice from your doctor. The earlier lung cancer is detected, the sooner treatment can start, and the better the outcome would be.

9 Lung Cancer Symptoms to Watch Out For

What are the effects of lung cancer?

The effects of lung cancer can be different from person to person. But in general, here are some of the most common effects that it can have:

Persistent cough

A persistent cough is usually among the first effects of lung cancer to appear. Even after taking cough suppressants and ruling out an infection, cancer causes coughing due to changes in the lung tissue.

However, not all persistent coughs are automatically a sign of lung cancer. So, don’t panic if you notice that a cough isn’t going away.

Shortness of breath

Aside from a persistent cough, another of the effects of lung cancer is shortness of breath. This also happens because the cancer cells in the lungs don’t function the same as healthy cells. As a result, the normal cells need to work harder or compensate for the abnormal cancer cells.

When Should Shortness of Breath Be a Cause for Concern?

Pleural effusion

Pleural effusion means having a buildup of liquid in the lungs. In the case of lung cancer, the liquid buildup also contains cancer cells.

This is one of the more advanced effects of lung cancer, and it severely affects the lung’s ability to function normally. This also means that the cancer has advanced to a significant degree and has spread from its original site, or metastasized.

Fatigue and weakness

Fatigue and weakness are also possible effects of lung cancer. One reason is that cancer cells can create toxins in the body that affect the healthy function of cells. This in turn causes a person to feel very tired or weak, even if they have had enough rest, or they haven’t exerted themselves.

It’s also possible that patients undergoing treatment for lung cancer can experience both of these symptoms. Unlike surgery which is localized, chemotherapy is systemic, affecting the entire body.

Unfortunately, chemotherapy doesn’t distinguish healthy cells from cancerous cells with 100% accuracy. Because of this, patients can feel tired or weak, especially after chemotherapy sessions. These side effects are also the reason why patients undergoing chemotherapy sometimes need to take breaks, in order for their body to recover.

Loss of appetite and sudden weight loss

During it’s more advanced stages, the effects of lung cancer can also extend to loss of appetite as well as sudden weight loss. This also occurs when cancer patients undergo chemotherapy.

Aside from negatively affecting the function of normal lung cells and reducing oxygen exchange, cancer cells use more energy. All cancer cells rapidly divide, which requires nutrients, energy, and space, which further deprives normal cells. This is why unexplained fatigue and weight loss often occur in cancer patients.


Bleeding is another possible effect of lung cancer. What usually happens is that a person might notice some blood in their mucus, or they start coughing up blood.

This condition is known as hemoptysis, and it happens in about 7%-35% of patients. It’s also possible for hemoptysis to become severe, in which case the patient needs to undergo treatment in order to staunch the bleeding. These patients may also develop anemia due to the blood loss.

However, severe bleeding happens in only about 3% of patients.

Key Takeaways

Lung cancer is a serious illness that can have adverse effects on the body. This is why it is always a good idea to be mindful of its symptoms and to get screened or talk to your doctor if you feel that anything is amiss.

Learn more about Lung Cancer here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Lung Cancer Signs & Symptoms | Common Symptoms of Lung Cancer, https://www.cancer.org/cancer/lung-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/signs-symptoms.html, Accessed March 18, 2021

Lung Cancer | Michigan Medicine, https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/hw183816, Accessed March 18, 2021

What Is Lung Cancer? | CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/lung/basic_info/what-is-lung-cancer.htm, Accessed March 18, 2021

Palliative Procedures in Lung Cancer, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3709941/, Accessed March 18, 2021

About advanced lung cancer | Cancer Research UK, https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/lung-cancer/advanced/about, Accessed March 18, 2021

Lung Cancer 101 | Lungcancer.org, https://www.lungcancer.org/find_information/publications/163-lung_cancer_101/266-symptoms, Accessed March 18, 2021

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Written by Jan Alwyn Batara Updated Jun 05
Medically reviewed by John Paul Ferolino Abrina, M.D.