Skip to content

8 Reasons Why Your Lungs May Be in Trouble

But acting quickly on these symptoms is a key factor to rule out lung cancer.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

According to the CDC, every year more people die of lung cancer in the United States than any other cancer. As with any type of cancer, early detection is a key factor when it comes to chances of survival. How can you stay your safest? Read on to learn about conditions that can feel like lung cancer—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Smoking, COPD, Emphysema

Man Smoking On Bright Sunny Day Outdoor

Smoking irritates the lungs and can lead to a chronic cough as well as lead to other medical problems that can mimic lung cancer symptoms. A chronic cough can cause aching muscles and chest pain. Smoking can also cause COPD, a serious lung disease that makes it difficult to breathe. People with COPD often experience a chronic cough. Emphysema is a form of COPD that is caused by damage to the air sacs in the lungs. It can lead to shortness of breath and coughing, particularly when breathing in. End-stage emphysema can also lead to unintentional weight loss.



man using asthma machine at home.

Bronchitis is an inflammation of the lining of the bronchi, the airways that carry air to and from the lungs. It is a common illness, affecting millions of people each year in the United States. Most cases of bronchitis are caused by a virus, and most people recover within a week or two without treatment. Bronchitis can cause all the early symptoms of lung cancer (cough, coughing up blood, chest pain, shortness of breath) and, if chronic, weight loss.



These COVID Symptoms Will Make Your Daily Life Impossible, Says Study

Pneumonia is a lung infection that can be serious. It can cause difficulty breathing and chest pain. Pneumonia is most common in young children and older adults, but it can occur at any age. Cough is frequent. The other symptoms mimicking lung cancer can occur and if there are recurring bouts or chronic infection unintentional weight loss can result.



Patients lying on hospital bed with mask, looking at lung x-ray film during doctor reading result and advice a treatment

Tuberculosis is a serious lung infection – a type of infection – caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. A bloody persistent cough, fevers, and weight loss are all common symptoms.



Business woman working from home wearing protective mask

Asthma comes in two forms: cough variant and non-cough variant. In the majority of cases, asthma is a non-cough variant. It is a common lung disease that affects people of all ages, but it is most common in young people. Symptoms of asthma include wheezing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. These symptoms can be caused by an allergic reaction. In cough variant asthma you have difficulty breathing, but do not have an asthma attack. The person will usually have a cough that is worse at night or early morning. The cough may be dry or may produce sputum.

RELATED: The #1 Sign Your Blood Sugar is "Way Too High"


Heart Failure

Young woman suffering from breathing problem near window indoors.

Heart failure can cause shortness of breath by causing the lungs to fill up with fluid. This occurs because the heart is not able to pump enough blood to meet the body's needs and fluid backs up. Symptoms of heart failure include shortness of breath, fatigue, and swelling in the feet and legs.

RELATED: Habits Secretly Increasing Your Pancreatic Cancer Risk, Say Physicians


Blood Clots

Patient complains of heart pain to a cardiologist doctor

Blood clots in the pulmonary arteries can cause extreme shortness of breath since the clot will block the flow of blood to the lungs. Blood clots can form in the veins of the leg (deep vein thrombosis) and travel to the arteries of the lung (pulmonary embolism). Symptoms of a blood clot in the lung include chest pain, shortness of breath, rapid breathing, and coughing up blood. It is a medical emergency.



Woman anemia

Anemia causes shortness of breath since it reduces the amount of oxygen that is carried in the blood. Anemia can be caused by a variety of problems, including iron deficiency, vitamin B12 deficiency, and sickle cell anemia. Symptoms of anemia include fatigue, shortness of breath, and pale skin.

RELATED: I'm a Virus Expert and if You Have This Symptom, Get Help



Shot of woman nutritionist doctor writes the medical prescription for a correct diet on a desk with fruits, pills and supplements.

Medications that cause shortness of breath include beta-blockers, which are used to treat high blood pressure and heart problems, and ACE inhibitors, which are used to treat heart failure and high blood pressure. Other medications that can cause shortness of breath include narcotic pain medications and antihistamines. ACE inhibitors can cause a cough in some people. Some medications can cause weight loss such as cancer treatments.


What to Do if You Experience Symptoms

risk of cancer

If you have any of these symptoms it is important to see your doctor. Chances are that the symptoms may be due to a non-cancer cause. Early diagnosis and treatment are the best way to increase your chances of surviving lung cancer. And to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Gethin Williams MD Ph.D. is the Medical Director of Imaging & Interventional Specialists.

Gethin Williams, MD, Ph.D
Gethin Williams, MD, Ph.D. is the Medical Director of Imaging & Interventional Specialists. Read more about Gethin
Filed Under