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Unusual Lung Cancer Symptoms and How to Spot Them

Unusual Lung Cancer Symptoms and How to Spot Them

Lung cancer is a condition that affects approximately 17,000 Filipinos yearly (as of statistical data from 2018). It is estimated that this number will double by year 2040, given the current trends and health practices of the general population. Lung cancer is also the cancer that has been reported to have the most deaths (2018), with a 17.9% mortality rate. Read on to learn more about common and unusual lung cancer symptoms.

What are the typical lung cancer symptoms?

We can attribute a majority of lung cancer cases to smoking tobacco products, including both smokers and non-smokers who are exposed to the fumes of smokers (secondhand smoke exposure). Though, there are some who are most likely genetically predisposed to the condition.

Lung cancer typically doesn’t cause symptoms during the early stages of the disease (asymptomatic). However, as time goes on and cancer develops, patients may begin experiencing symptoms.

unusual lung cancer symptoms

Here is a list of common lung cancer symptoms:

  • A nagging cough
  • Voice Hoarseness
  • Wheezing
  • Hemoptysis (coughing up blood)
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest discomfort or pain
  • Unintentional weight loss

However, were you aware that there are relatively uncommon lung cancer symptoms?

Uncommon lung cancer symptoms

Depending on the type, the stage, the location, and whether or not other organs are already involved, patients can develop a broad spectrum of lung cancer symptoms. These can include the following:

Bone pain

One of the most common sites of metastasis (when a cancer invades other organs) for lung cancer are the bones. This may feel like muscle pain, but typically gets worse when moving, at night, or when laying flat on your back.

Gaining weight

A common misconception with cancer is that it makes you lose weight. However, this is not always the case. If lung cancer spreads to your pituitary gland, there may be an increase of ACTH, a hormone that can in turn increase the levels of cortisol in your body. Increased levels of cortisol leads to weight gain and fluid accumulation in your body.

High calcium levels

High calcium levels due to bone metastasis can cause a spectrum of symptoms to occur.


This may also occur with abdominal pain or nausea. Aside from this, a person with lung cancer may experience excessive thirst and urination.

Voice changes

Your voice can change if the lung tumor presses on your recurrent laryngeal nerve. This can cause what is commonly known in the medical field as voice hoarseness.


Due to the destruction or replacement of normal lung tissue with tumors, the amount of oxygen patients can take in is limited, this is a rather common lung cancer symptom in the later stages of the condition.

Obstructed blood flow

Again, this is due to a mass effect of the tumor. If the tumor blocks the drainage of some veins for the head, neck, or arms, patients may experience some puffiness of their face, neck, or arms.

Alternatively, if the tumor obstructs an important vessel known as the superior vena cava, patients may experience dizziness due to a decrease in blood flow going to the heart.

The Pancoast tumor

This type of lung cancer can cause arm and shoulder pain since it is typically located at the apical (top) portion of the lungs. This type of tumor can also cause eye symptoms, a typical group of lung cancer symptoms known as “Horner Syndrome”

Paraneoplastic syndromes

There are some tumors that can produce substances similar to the hormones in our bodies. This can lead to several syndromes that are similar to those with hormonal problems. This can include:

  • Cushing syndrome – A condition where a hormone similar to ACTHis made, causing increases in cortisol. This can lead to weight gain, bruising, weakness, drowsiness, and fluid accumulation. It can also lead to high blood pressure and possibly diabetes.
  • Syndrome of Inappropriate Anti-Diuretic Hormone (SIADH) – This is a condition where the tumor creates a substance similar to your anti-diuretic hormone. This hormone is responsible for telling your kidneys to retain water. Hence, patients may experience symptoms seen in fluid retention, such as fatigue, loss of appetite, muscle weakness, cramps, nausea and vomiting, restlessness, and confusion.
  • Lambert-Eaton syndrome – Small cell lung carcinomas can program the body’s immune system to attack the nervous system. This can lead to muscle weakness in the hips and shoulders.

Key Takeaways

There is a broad spectrum of uncommon lung cancer symptoms seen in all types of cancer. Depending on the location, type of tumor, and stage of the disease, your symptoms may vary. If you experience any unusual symptoms mentioned above and/or are a smoker with a family history of lung cancer, see your physician for medical advice.

Learn more about lung cancer here.

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


Burden of Cancer, Philippines, https://www.who.int/cancer/country-profiles/PHL_2020.pdf, Accessed on October 20, 2021

Lung Cancer, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/lung-cancer/symptoms-causes/syc-20374620, Accessed on October 20, 2021

Signs and symptoms of Lung Cancer, https://www.cancer.org/cancer/lung-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/signs-symptoms.html, Accessed on October 20, 2021

Rare Lung Cancers, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4818228/, Accessed on October 20, 2021

Lung Cancer, https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/lung-cancer/symptoms/, Accessed on October 20, 2021


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Written by Gerard Tamayo Updated Oct 29, 2021
Fact Checked by Bianchi Mendoza, R.N.