A tumour in the upper part of the lungs sometimes injures a nerve passing from the upper chest into the neck. Doctors sometimes call these cancers Pancoast tumours. A common symptom of a Pancoast tumour is a severe pain in the shoulder. These tumours can also cause Horner’s syndrome. Horner’s syndrome is a medical term for a group of symptoms which consist of drooping or weakness of one eyelid, reduced or absent perspiration on the same side of the face and the pupil in the eye on the affected side becoming smaller.
Other lung cancers produce hormone-like substances which enter the bloodstream causing problems with remote tissues and organs. The cancer doesn’t have to spread to those tissues or organs for them to be affected.
These secondary problems are called Paraneoplastic or tumour-related syndromes. Often these symptoms may be the first warning sign of early lung cancer. Unfortunately these symptoms affect other organs, so patients and their doctors often suspect other diseases before cancer is tested for.
People with small cell lung cancer and those with non-small cell lung cancer frequently have diverse Paraneoplastic syndromes.
The most common Paraneoplastic syndromes associated with small cell lung cancer are:
SIADH (syndrome of inappropriate ant-diuretic hormone) which causes the salt levels in the blood to become very low.
Symptoms of SIADH include exhaustion, loss of appetite, muscle weakness and/or cramps, queasiness, sickness, restlessness, and confusion. Without treatment, severe cases can lead to convulsions and eventually coma and death.
Other syndromes include
A production of substances in the body causing blood clots to form. Mainly these clots occur in the veins of the legs leading to deep vein thrombosis, but they can also clog up important blood vessels and disrupt the blood flow to the limbs, lungs, brain, and other internal organs.
A mysterious loss of sense of balance and unsteadiness in arm and leg movements.
The most common Paraneoplastic syndromes caused by non-small cell lung cancer are:
Hypercalcemia (high blood calcium levels), which may cause urinary frequency, constipation, general weakness, giddiness, confusion, and nervous system problems.
Excess growth of certain bones can occur which can sometimes be painful. This is especially a problem in the finger tips.
A production of substances which triggers clotting in the blood, this can lead to blood clots.
Excessive breast growth in men.