Small Cell Lung Cancer Symptoms

Small cell lung cancer accounts for about 15-20% of the diagnosed cases of lung cancer. Its symptoms are similar to non-small cell lung cancer. However, because this is such an aggressive form of cancer, symptoms are often much more obvious. While people suffering from NSCLC might not experience any symptoms at all or might not have symptoms until late in the disease, small cell symptoms are going to make themselves known a lot faster in many cases. Taking the time to understand what you’re dealing with will make it easier for you to get the support and treatment that you deserve.


Small cell lung cancer usually affects smokers, with non-smokers accounting for only a rare diagnosis from time to time. This is the most aggressive form of lung cancer that exists, and it generally starts in the center of the chest and affects the airways before anything else. While the cells are originally small, they grow and spread rapidly, which is why knowing the symptoms is important to being able to get the right treatment every time.

Symptoms- What to Look For

There are a lot of different symptoms that people could experience. Because of the nature of some of them, it can be hard to discern between common illnesses and more serious conditions like cancer. However, keeping track of things will make it easier for everyone. Some of the symptoms that you should be looking for include things like:

  • Excessive cough, possibly including excessive sputum or blood
  • Chest pain and shortness of breath
  • Difficulty breathing and wheezing
  • Loss of appetite, unexplained weight loss, and fatigue
  • Hoarseness, voice changes, or loss of voice
  • Fever and facial swelling
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Weakness and bone pain if the cancer has spread beyond the lungs
  • Vision changes, seizures, headaches, and neurological changes if cancer spreads to the brain

These are the most common symptoms of small cell lung cancer. Some people will have different symptoms than others and there are still small chances that some will have no symptoms at all before being diagnosed. However, when you know what to look for, it’s easy to catch this aggressive cancer before it gets completely out of control.

From Symptoms to Diagnosis- Talk to Your Doctor

Whenever you have any of the symptoms listed above, you really need to talk to your doctor. Some people assume that they might just have a chest cold when the symptoms are new and mild, so visiting a doctor might not be at the top of their list of priorities. If, however, any of these symptoms persist beyond just a few weeks or get worse, you really need to talk to your doctor. It might be nothing, but it might be small cell lung cancer and it’s better to be safe than sorry. Right now, the debate over early screening and testing is controversial because some of the tests are invasive and more risky than they are worth to some patients. Nonetheless, you can discuss your situation and choose what works best for your peace of mind.

Understanding the symptoms of small cell lung cancer will give you the heads up that you need to get more out of your cancer diagnosis. A physical exam and medical history will quickly rule out any other conditions and your smoking habits can point doctors in a better direction to arrive at the right diagnosis. Make sure that you are completely honest about your history and your symptoms so that you can get the right diagnosis to begin treatment as soon as possible. If it is small cell lung cancer, waiting is the worst thing that you can do.