Signs That Lung Cancer Has Metastasized
There are two main types of lung cancer that someone can be diagnosed with: small-cell, and non-small cell. Both types may slowly grow in the body over a long period of time before finally being discovered. A diagnosis of the disease may not be until a patient has been ordered to take a chest X-ray, which is usually related to another illness. Because of this late discovery, the disease is usually in its final and most dangerous stage.
A late stage cancer is categorized as “Stage 4,” and means that the disease has reached its final stage after having “metastasized” (spread from its origin). Patients diagnosed with late stage cancer usually have a very low survival rate. About 30-40% of patients diagnosed show some signs that the cancer has metastasized. Only a small percentage of these patients will survive for more than five years after diagnosis.
When a patient experiences symptoms such as severe headaches, blurred vision, nausea, and vomiting; it usually means that the cancer has metastasized to the brain. Neurological disorders such as seizures, ataxia, and confusion may also be experienced. A CT (computer assisted tomography) scan, or a MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan may be ordered to determine the exact location and size of the tumor in the brain.
A continual dull aching pain in the back (usually over the area of the spine), may indicate that the cancer has metastasized to the spinal cord. Bladder or bowel dysfunction may also be experienced together with some degree of sensory loss. Paraparesis (a weakness of the limbs), or paraplegia (an impairment in motor or sensory function of the lower extremities) are other symptoms that may be experienced.
Commonly found in non-small cell cancer patients when the cancer has metastasized, are small bone fractures. These small fractures may result in severe pain and discomfort for many sufferers. Pains are usually localized in bones such as those found in the hands, feet, ribs, spine, pelvis, and proximal long bones (parts of the bone [arm or leg] that are located nearest the body). An X-ray is usually ordered to determine the exact location of the cancer.
When the liver has been affected, a patient may experience a notable weight loss (usually rapidly over a short period of time). Although there may be no apparent reason for this, it can sometimes be associated with an unexplained loss of appetite. Signs of jaundice (yellowing of the skin), nausea, fever, and a pain in the right upper quadrant may also be apparent.
Other symptoms that may indicate the cancer has metastasized include: coughing up small amounts of blood, wheezing, a shortness of breath, and severe chest pains.