Doctor explaining lungs x-ray on computer screen to young patient
Brittany Hambleton
Brittany Hambleton
January 18, 2024 ·  3 min read

20 Early Warning Signs of Lung Cancer That Women Should Never Ignore

Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in both men and women. Prostate is the first for men, and breast cancer is the first for women. Although the prevalence of lung cancer is nearly equal in both men and women, the warning signs of lung cancer can vary between the two greatly. This is because men and women usually suffer from different types of lung cancer and, therefore, experience different symptoms, making it important to look out for the symptoms that are specific to your sex.

Lung Cancer In Women


The most common type of lung cancer that women develop is called adenocarcinoma. This form of lung cancer generally tends to spread on the outer part of the lungs, which may explain why symptoms are less obvious than other types of lung cancer. In many cases, adenocarcinoma tumors can become large and spread throughout the body before they are detected, making catching this type of cancer early critical.

Read: How to Eat to Reduce Cancer Risk

Early symptoms of adenocarcinoma include:

  • Fatigue
  • Back and shoulder pain
  • Shortness of breath when exercising

If the cancer grows, then symptoms may include:

  • Persistent cough
  • Pain in chest, shoulders, and back
  • Increased mucus and a change in color
  • Shortness of breath
  • Hoarse voice
  • Harsh sound when breathing (medically referred to as stridor)
  • Coughing up mucus or phlegm tinged with blood
  • Coughing up blood

Since this form of lung cancer is generally difficult to detect, it can often spread to other parts of the body and may only be noticed when it reaches its most advanced stages. When lung cancer spreads in this manner, symptoms can be felt in many different parts of the body.

The most common parts of the body (other than the lungs) that lung cancer affects include lymph nodes, bones, brain, liver, and adrenal glands. This can cause a variety of symptoms, among which include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Loss of muscle mass
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Bone or joint pain
  • Bone fractures not caused by an accidental injury
  • Memory loss
  • Swelling in the face and/or neck
  • Blood clots

Lung Cancer In Men


Men are more likely to develop squamous cell carcinomas, otherwise known as non-small cell lung cancer. This type of lung cancer generally develops in the central part of the lungs, near the main airway (bronchus). This results in an obstruction of air, which can lead to symptoms that may be more obviously related to lung cancer compared to the type most commonly experienced by women (adenocarcinoma).

Some of these symptoms include:

  • Chronic cough
  • Wheezing
  • Repeatedly experiencing lung infections such as pneumonia and bronchitis

Although symptoms of lung cancer in men generally tend to obstruct the airway more than lung cancer in women, many studies suggest that men overlook these symptoms more often than women due to lifestyle habits such as smoking.

Overall, although it may seem that symptoms of lung cancer in men may be more obvious, it is important never to overlook any warning signs that your body is giving you. It is also important to make sure to reduce your risk of lung cancer at all costs, which includes quitting smoking if you haven’t already.

Keep Reading: 5 Signs of Bowel Cancer You Shouldn’t Ignore in the New Year


  1. Symptoms of Lung Cancer in Women.” Very Well Health. Lynne Eldridge, MD. January 10, 2022.
  2. What Are the Symptoms of Lung Cancer?CDC
  3. The 20 Most Ignored Cancer Symptoms in Women and Men.” Prevention. February 1, 2023.