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Small cell lung cancer can be difficult to detect in its earliest stages. Initially, the condition may not produce any symptoms at all, and when it does, the signs are often vague and easily overlooked — especially in current and former smokers who are accustomed to living with the harmful effects of smoking. Additionally, there are no pain receptors within the lungs, so any damage caused by small cancerous changes in lung tissue cannot be felt. Until the cancer spreads, it may not even show up in a chest X-ray. All of these factors can lead to a potentially dangerous delay in diagnosis and treatment.

To help protect yourself against small cell lung cancer, it’s important to recognize the symptoms and talk with a physician about anything unusual – such as intense or prolonged coughing – that makes you suspect you might have something more than a cold. It may be nothing to worry about, but why not ease your mind and find out for sure?

How to recognize possible signs of lung cancer

Many small cell lung cancer symptoms can also be caused by other, less serious conditions. Oftentimes, the key to early detection is recognizing when a seemingly harmless symptom lasts longer than it should — such as a cold that lingers for more than two weeks — or occurs along with other symptoms, such as:

  • Chronic coughing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Hoarseness
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Bloody sputum (mucus coughed up from the lungs)
  • Chest pain that worsens with deep breathing, coughing or laughing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Facial swelling
  • Enlarged neck veins

If there is reason to believe that you might have small cell lung cancer, an oncologist in the Thoracic Oncology Program at Moffitt Cancer Center can order appropriate tests to check for cancerous cells and rule out other conditions. We take an individualized approach to lung cancer diagnosis and treatment, and our goal is to match the right treatment to the right patient as early as possible. You can request an appointment with or without a referral by calling 1-888-663-3488 or completing our new patient registration form online. And, if you smoke, we encourage you to quit as soon as possible.