In late stage lung cancer, it is common for the disease to spread, or metastasize, from the lung where it started to other parts of the body. When this happens, it can cause many different symptoms. These can include fatigue, breathlessness, chest pain, coughing, weight loss and voice hoarseness. These symptoms are called metastatic symptoms and can be very difficult to manage for patients and their caregivers.
In the late stages of laryngeal cancer, which is a type of head and neck cancer, a tumor can develop on the vocal cords (glottis), often causing hoarseness. This is why it is important to talk to your doctor if you have any changes in your voice that do not go away after 2 weeks. Other symptoms that may be associated with advanced laryngeal cancer include wheezing and a feeling that something is stuck in the throat.
Lung cancer can also affect the nerves that control the larynx, or voice box. Cancers that begin in the area above the vocal cords (supraglottis), below the vocal cords (subglottis) or in the neck area (hypopharynx) usually do not cause hoarseness. This is because they typically grow for a long time before they become noticeable. Cancers that start in these areas of the throat can sometimes be mistaken for a viral or bacterial infection and may be misdiagnosed.
Other symptoms that are associated with metastatic lung cancer at this stage include a lump or mass in the throat, difficulty opening the mouth or swallowing, and a feeling that something is stuck in your throat (globus sensation). When lung cancer has spread to other organs, it can also cause more serious symptoms such as headaches, nausea and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes).
At this stage of the disease, patients tend to feel fatigued more than any other symptom, which is not surprising given the amount of energy that the cancer is using to grow. This can lead to problems with memory and concentration, and some patients experience feelings of depression or anxiety, which are not uncommon for people dealing with cancer. In addition, late-stage cancer can be very tiring for caregivers as well, and it is very important for everyone involved to have a support system in place so that they are taking care of themselves.
While the prognosis for this stage of the disease is worse than earlier stages, it is still possible to live longer if the cancer is treated as early as possible. Doctors can usually offer some combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation at this point to try to slow the growth of the cancer and keep it from spreading. The exact treatment plan will depend on the location of the cancer and how much it has already spread. People with stage 4 lung cancer should discuss their options for treatment with their doctors.