12 lung cancer symptoms in people that have never smoked

Trouble breathing and wheezing can be a sign of lung cancer
Trouble breathing and wheezing can be a sign of lung cancer -Credit:Getty Images

Experts have pointed out a number of lung cancer symptoms, highlighting 12 common signs that can appear in individuals who have never lit a cigarette.

While smoking significantly increases the risk of developing lung cancer, it's important to note that non-smokers are not immune to the disease. Cancer Research UK has pointed out that 14% of lung cancer cases in the UK occur in people who have never smoked.

The charity issued a stark warning: "To put this into perspective, if lung cancer in people who have never smoked was a separate disease, it would be the eighth most prevalent cause of cancer-related death."

The presentation of lung cancer in non-smokers can differ from that in smokers due to distinct molecular and biological characteristics, which also influence how the disease responds to treatment, reports the Mirror..

So, what should non-smokers be vigilant for regarding lung cancer symptoms? Specialists at Yale Medicine have identified a unique set of symptoms that may manifest in lung cancer patients who do not smoke.

Anne Chiang, a thoracic medical oncologist and chief network officer at Smilow Cancer Hospital, explained: "We used to think all lung cancers were the same, but now we understand that there are different kinds."

She added, "The good news is that the types of lung cancer that non-smokers tend to get are usually driven by a molecular change or mutation that can be detected in the tumour, and there are drugs and therapeutics available for them."

What are non-smoker lung cancer symptoms?

  1. A cough that doesn’t go away or gets worse over time

  2. Coughing up blood

  3. Chest pain or discomfort

  4. Trouble breathing

  5. Wheezing

  6. Hoarseness

  7. Loss of appetite

  8. Weight loss for no reason

  9. Fatigue

  10. Trouble swallowing

  11. Swelling in the face and/or the neck

  12. Recurrent lung infections, including pneumonia

The majority of non-smokers are diagnosed with a type of lung cancer known as adenocarcinoma, which originates in the outer parts of the lungs and affects mucus-producing cells within the small airways called bronchioles.

Yale oncologists have noted that smokers tend to develop squamous cell carcinoma, a form of non-small cell lung cancer.

Thoracic surgeon Daniel Boffa described the difference in appearance between the two types of lung cancer. He explained: "If you are a smoker, you can think of your lung as a bag of white marbles, and cancer is like putting a black marble in there."

"The type of cancer a nonsmoker gets is more like putting in black sand. Instead of a spot or a lump, it's more like a hazy area. It's more diffuse."

Lung cancer in non-smokers generally grows at a slower pace. Additionally, individuals with prolonged exposure to asbestos are at an increased risk of developing lung cancer, according to Macmillan.

Yale experts also highlighted that occupational exposure to heavy metals and diesel exhaust could lead to the disease.

In certain areas of the UK, radona natural gascan seep from the soil into building foundations. While high levels of radon exposure are rare, they can elevate the risk of lung cancer, particularly for smokers.