Lung cancer symptoms: The sign in your eye which could signal the deadly disease

Lung cancer is one of the most common and serious types of cancer in the UK, with around 47,000 people diagnosed every year. Many of the symptoms of lung cancer, when they develop, are directly linked to a person’s lungs, for example a persistent cough and coughing up blood.


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But lung cancer can also affect other parts of the body – one being the eyes.

Some lung cancers can cause syndromes such as Horner syndrome.

The American Cancer Society explains: “Cancers of the upper part of the lungs are sometimes called pancoast tumours. These tumours are more likely to be non-small cell lung cancer than small cell lung cancer.

“Pancoast tumours can affect certain nerves to the eye and part of the face, causing a group of symptoms called Horner syndrome.”

One of the symptoms of Horner syndrome is drooping or weakness of one upper eyelid.

A smaller pupil (dark part in the centre of the eye) in the same eye may also appear.

Another sign of Horner syndrome is little or no swearing on the same side of the face.

Pancoast tumours can also sometimes cause severe shoulder pain.

Main symptoms of lung cancer

The main symptoms of lung cancer are listed by the NHS as:

  • A cough that doesn’t go away after two or three weeks
  • A long-standing cough that gets worse
  • Chest infections that keep coming back
  • Coughing up blood
  • An ache or pain when breathing or coughing
  • Persistent breathlessness
  • Persistent tiredness or lack of energy
  • Loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss

If you experience any of these you should see your GP.


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Less common symptoms may include:

  • Changes in the appearance of your fingers, such as becoming more curved or Their ends becoming larger (this is known as finger clubbing)
  • Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia) or pain when swallowing
  • Wheezing
  • A hoarse voice
  • Swelling of your face or neck
  • Persistent chest or shoulder pain

Lung cancer causes

The exact cause of lung cancer is unknown, but there’re a number of factors that can increase a person’s risk of developing the disease.

Smoking is one of the main risk factors, but can be controlled by quitting smoking.

Mayo Clinic explains: “Your risk of lung cancer increases with the number of cigarettes you smoke each day and the number of years you have smoked.

“Quitting at any age can significantly lower your risk of developing lung cancer.”

Other risk factors include:

  • Exposure to secondhand smoke
  • Exposure to radon gas
  • Exposure to asbestos and other carcinogens
  • Family history of lung cancer

Lung cancer treatment

Treatments for lung cancer include surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, targeted therapy and immunotherapy drugs.

Macmillan Cancer Support advises: “This depends on the stage and type of lung cancer and your general health.”

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