Symptoms of Stage 1 Lung Cancer

The symptoms of stage 1 lung cancer are usually vague. They may include symptoms such as persistent cough, coughing up blood, and shoulder pain. Because symptoms can be mild, they can easily go unnoticed for other reasons, or they can go unnoticed entirely.

While knowing the common signs and symptoms is critical for early detection of these cancers, it’s important to note that many lung cancers at this stage are asymptomatic. For this reason, lung cancer screening is essential for those who are eligible to take the test.

This article will explain the early symptoms of lung cancer, complications, who should be screened, and when to see your healthcare provider.

common symptoms

With stage 1 lung cancer, many people have no symptoms.In fact, a 2020 review found that 59% of people diagnosed with stage 1 lung cancer have Do not symptom. That said, it’s important to understand the possible symptoms so that the disease can be diagnosed as early as possible.

Common symptoms of stage 1 lung cancer may include:

persistent cough

Overall, the most common symptom of lung cancer is a persistent cough: it lasts for several weeks. The cough may be dry (without producing phlegm or mucus) or wet (producing phlegm or mucus), mild or severe, and may be constant or come and go. Coughs may get worse over time, but are usually relatively slow and may go unnoticed.

For those who smoke, lung cancer-related cough may be indistinguishable from a “smoker’s cough,” making identification more challenging. For people who smoke, a change in a “normal” cough may be the most important sign.

In a large Chinese study, persistent cough was the most common symptom leading to a stage 1 lung cancer diagnosis.

Is my cough a lung cancer cough?

coughing up blood (hemoptysis)

Even stage 1 lung cancers can cause coughing up blood if they grow near the airways. coughing up blood (hemoptysis) can be subtle and you may notice only a hint of pink or red on the tissue. However, even in small amounts, this symptom should always be checked.

Although lung cancer is not the most common cause of coughing up blood, it is the first sign of the disease in 7%–35% of people.

In one study, hemoptysis occurred in only 20% of lung cancer patients, but among possible lung cancer symptoms, it was the strongest predictor of the presence of cancer.

shoulder and/or chest pain

Most people don’t think of lung cancer when they experience shoulder or chest pain, but these types of pain can be symptoms of lung cancer.

Shoulder pain is common in advanced lung cancer, but can also occur in stage 1 disease.a tumor, a pancreatic tumorgrows near the top of the lung (Shanggou). Because of its location, it can put pressure on nearby nerves leading to the shoulder and arm, causing shoulder pain, pain, and swelling in the upper arm on the affected side, as well as weakness, numbness, or tingling in one hand. The shoulder pain is most severe, but it usually radiates from the inside of the arm down to the little finger on the affected side.

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Pain from pancreatic cancer can be severe and persistent, and it often leads people (and healthcare providers) to initially think there is a bone or joint problem. Because of their location, these tumors are also often missed on chest X-rays, which can further delay diagnosis.

When is shoulder pain a symptom of lung cancer?

Chest pain can also occur in the early stages of lung cancer if the tumor is located near the lining of the lung (early stage of lung cancer) pleura). Pain associated with a tumor in the area is often described as pain on deep breathing (pleurisy chest pain) and is usually severe and intermittent.

Lung adenocarcinoma is a type of lung cancer that usually grows on the periphery of the lung near the pleura. They are the most common type among women and never-smokers.

recurrent respiratory infections

Recurrent respiratory infections can also be a sign of stage 1 lung cancer, although not as common as the symptoms described above. If lung cancer grows near the airways, it can cause a partial blockage. This blockage, in turn, increases the risk of recurrent respiratory infections, such as bronchitis or pneumonia.

While upper respiratory tract infections, such as the common cold, are common and most adults experience three to four years each year, the occurrence of pneumonia more than once in a year is a reason to look further for an underlying cause.


Wheezing sounds like a scream from your lungs as you exhale. Conditions such as asthma are more common causes than lung cancer, but if a tumor is present in one of the airways, it can cause wheezing heard mainly on one side of the chest. There is a saying in medicine that “not all wheezing is asthma” and even people who usually suffer from asthma should investigate changes in symptoms.

shortness of breath

Shortness of breath is often a sign of more advanced lung cancer, but it sometimes occurs in stage 1 disease. When present, shortness of breath is usually relatively mild and only noticeable during exertion such as walking up and down stairs. At this stage, it can often easily be considered age-related or less active than usual.

Chest X-rays and Lung Cancer Diagnosis

If you’ve seen your healthcare provider and got signs of complete clearance on a chest X-ray, but still have symptoms, don’t ignore how you’re feeling. Chest X-rays can be valuable in diagnosing lung cancer, but can miss up to 25% of tumors. A computed tomography (CT) scan may be required.

In one study, one-third of people diagnosed with lung cancer had seen three or more doctors before their diagnosis. If your symptoms persist, make another appointment or get a second opinion.

rare symptoms

Because stage 1 lung cancer has not spread to distant parts of the body, symptoms of metastatic cancer (stage 4, in which the cancer has spread to distant parts of the body) are usually absent. These may include:

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • loss of appetite
  • Hoarseness (usually when the tumor has spread to the lymph nodes)
  • Clubbing (a condition where the fingers look like an upside-down spoon)
  • superior vena cava Syndrome (tumor compresses large blood vessels that return blood to the heart, causing swelling of the face and arms)
  • Symptoms related to spread to distant organs, such as headaches and seizures (brain metastases) or bone pain or weakness (bone metastases)

some tumors, especially small cell lung cancer and squamous cell carcinoma, may release hormone-like chemicals in the body.These paraneoplastic syndrome cause a variety of symptoms, ranging from weakness and muscle cramps (Hypercalcemia) to facial swelling to weight gain (Cushing’s syndrome) and more.

An important point is that the symptoms of lung cancer may not be easily attributable to the lungs.


Complications are less common in stage 1 lung cancer than in advanced disease, but can still occur. In some cases, these complications can be the first signs of lung cancer. Potential complications may include:

Coughing up blood (hemoptysis): Coughing up more than 1 teaspoon of blood is considered a medical emergency and requires immediate care. About 20% of people with lung cancer will experience hemoptysis at some point.

Coughing up more than 100 milliliters (ml) of blood (slightly less than half a cup) is considered massive hemoptysis and has a high mortality rate. If this happens, a person should call 911 instead of being taken to the hospital.

Blood clots: Blood clots are common in lung cancer, affecting about 15 percent of lung cancer patients. These clots can appear early in the disease and are sometimes the first symptoms of lung cancer. blood clots (deep vein thrombosis) most commonly in the legs and can cause redness, tenderness, and swelling.

If these blood clots rupture and enter the lungs (pulmonary embolism), people may experience severe shortness of breath, heart palpitations, and loss of consciousness.

How to Treat Pulmonary Embolism

Depression: Clinical depression occurs in up to 25% of lung cancer patients. Symptoms of depression can include crying, but also anger and irritability. Some may feel hopeless. For most people, there will be less interest in previously enjoyable activities. Fortunately, treatment can be very effective.

Suicide risk with lung cancer is also very real and is highest early after diagnosis. In fact, suicide is most common within the first seven months of receiving a diagnosis. It is thought that 6% of people with cancer overall (and many more with lung cancer) have considered or considered suicide at some point.

help with suicidal thoughts

If you’re concerned that a loved one with cancer seems down, don’t be afraid to ask. It is also important to seek help if you find yourself having suicidal thoughts. If you or a loved one is having suicidal thoughts, talk to your doctor or call the National Suicide Hotline for immediate help. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 800-273-TALK (8255) and is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Suicide risk in cancer patients

When to see a healthcare provider/go to the hospital

Lung cancer is most treatable in the early stages of the disease, and when detected in stage 1, many of these tumors may be curable.

Remember, people who never smoke can and do get lung cancer. Currently, approximately 20% of lung cancer patients in the United States have never smoked.

Symptoms that should prompt your healthcare provider to check include:

  • if you have a persistent cough
  • If you cough up blood, even if it’s just a trace on a tissue
  • If you are short of breath from activity
  • If you have shoulder or chest pain
  • If you feel pain, swelling or redness in one leg
  • If you think you have pneumonia more than once in a year
  • If you are depressed or have suicidal thoughts
  • any unexplained symptoms that are not normal to you

Emergencies are uncommon in stage 1 lung cancer, but can occur. It’s best to call 911 if you:

  • severe chest pain
  • Severe or sudden onset of shortness of breath
  • coughing up more than 1 teaspoon of blood
  • Dizziness or unconsciousness

Who should be screened for lung cancer?

If you smoke or have smoked in the past, you may be a candidate for lung cancer screening. Screening can often detect lung cancer at the earliest, most treatable stage and can save lives, if done according to guidelines. In fact, screening for lung cancer saves more lives than screening for all other cancers combined. You may be a candidate if:

  • You have a 20 pack year smoking history.
  • You are over 50 years old.
  • You currently smoke or have quit smoking within the past 15 years.

In some cases, other risk factors may prompt your healthcare provider to recommend screening, such as a family history of lung cancer or radon exposure in the home.


The signs and symptoms of stage 1 lung cancer are usually mild and vague. These can include a chronic cough, coughing up blood, wheezing, recurrent respiratory infections, or even a sudden desire to quit smoking. However, with no symptoms more than half the time, lung cancer screening is the best guarantee of early detection of these cancers (at least for people who smoke).

VigorTip words

Lung cancer is relatively uncommon to diagnose at stage 1 of the disease, so it is important to know the symptoms.Because symptoms can be mild and vague and don’t necessarily point to the lungs, it’s important to discuss the following questions with your healthcare provider any Symptoms related to you. This is true even if you feel the symptoms are relatively insignificant.

Symptoms are our body’s way of telling us that something is wrong. Meanwhile, similar to a puzzle, telling your healthcare provider about seemingly unrelated symptoms can be the last piece of the puzzle needed.