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Dr Daniel Tan, Senior Consultant, Division of Medical Oncology, National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS), a member of the SingHealth group shares on the symptoms and diagnosis of lung cancer.

Symptoms of lung cancer

Lung cancer usually doesn’t have any symptoms in the early stages. At an advanced stage, patients may experience the following symptoms:

  • A persistent cough that changes or worsens over time
  • Shortness of breath and wheezing
  • Bloodstained sputum or phlegm
  • Chest pain
  • Recurrent chest infections and fever
  • Headaches
  • Sudden and unexplained weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • General weakness and tiredness
  • Bone pain

“A persistent cough, wheezing and chest pain can be caused by other conditions as well and may not necessarily indicate lung cancer. It is therefore important to consult your doctor if any of the symptoms of lung cancer persist or are bothering you,” says Dr Tan.

Diagnosing Lung Cancer

If you have symptoms of lung cancer, your doctor will ask you to undergo the following tests:

  • An X-ray and/or CT (Computed Tomography) scan of the lungs
  • Sputum exam
  • Bronchoscopy – a specialist uses a flexible tubing to examine the airways and possibly do a biopsy (removing small pieces of tissue for examination)

Once lung cancer has been diagnosed, your doctor will determine the stage of the cancer.

  • Stage 1 – the cancer is limited to the lung and the tumour is smaller than 5 cms in width.
  • Stage 2 – the cancer may have spread to the chest wall or nearby lymph nodes.
  • Stage 3 – the tumour may have grown large in size and may have affected other organs or lymph nodes that are further away.
  • Stage 4 – the cancer may have spread to the other lung or distant areas of the body

Determining the stage of the lung cancer may require further tests such as a bone scan, CT scan, positron emission tomography (PET) scan or an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging).

“Most people diagnosed with lung cancer are over the age of 40. However, the onset of the disease may be years earlier,” says Dr Daniel Tan, Senior Consultant, Division of Medical Oncology, National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS), a member of the SingHealth group. ​

See next page for the treatment options.

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