What Are the Signs of Lung Cancer in Men?

Medically Reviewed By Adithya Cattamanchi, M.D.
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Males are more likely than females to develop a form of lung cancer known as squamous cell carcinoma. Symptoms include a persistent cough, chest pains, shortness of breath, and blood in phlegm.

Sex and gender exist on a spectrum. This article uses the terms “female” and/or “male” to refer to sex that was assigned at birth. 

Learn more about the difference between sex and gender.

More people search using the term “men,” so this is used throughout the piece to reflect that trend.

Lung cancer happens when abnormal cells in the lung start to grow uncontrollably and form a cancerous tumor there.

There are two main types of lung cancer, non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer (SCLC).

Around 80–85% of lung cancers are NSCLC, whereas only around 10–15% of lung cancer cases are SCLC.

There are subtypes of NSCLC which include adenocarcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and large cell carcinoma. Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is more common in males than females.  

This article explains the signs of lung cancer in males, the risk factors, and when to see a doctor. The article also goes over the survival rates for lung cancer and offers tips for coping with the symptoms. 

Signs of lung cancer in men

Male in a red t-shirt grabbing his shoulder in gym
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You may find that you do not have signs of lung cancer in the earlier stages. Symptoms may only begin to appear when the cancer has spread. 

The signs of lung cancer are similar regardless of the type. The most common symptoms of lung cancer include:

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is more common in males. Additional symptoms of SCC, as well as other cancers, can include:

If you experience any of the symptoms of lung cancer, contact your doctor.

Read more about squamous cell carcinoma lung cancer.

Risk factors for lung cancer in men

There are various risk factors for lung cancer, including:

  • Smoking: Smoking is the main risk factor for developing lung cancer. It causes around 80–90% of lung cancer deaths. Breathing in other people’s smoke can also increase your chances of developing lung cancer. 
  • Radon exposure: Radon is the second main cause of lung cancer in America. Radon is a natural gas that occurs in rocks, water, and soil. People breathe it in as it builds in the air after it has become trapped in homes or buildings. Radon can also be in drinking water. 
  • Substances: Breathing in asbestos, arsenic, and diesel exhaust fumes can place you at a higher risk of lung cancer. Living in a heavily polluted area can also increase your risk.
  • Family history: If your family has a history of lung cancer, you are at a higher risk of developing it.
  • Radiation therapy: If you have had radiation therapy for other types of cancer, this places you at an increased risk of developing lung cancer.
  • Diet and lifestyle: More research would clarify whether certain foods, levels of physical activity, and lifestyle choices may increase your risk of lung cancer. 

Smoking marijuana and having repeated infections such as pneumonia and tuberculosis can increase your chances of developing lung cancer. 

When to see a doctor

Tell your doctor if you experience any signs of lung cancer, such as an ongoing cough, blood in your phlegm, or shortness of breath

If you are concerned you may be at risk of lung cancer, speak with your doctor. According to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), you are eligible for and recommended to have yearly lung cancer screenings if you meet the following requirements:

  • You have a 20-pack or more per year smoking habit.
  • You currently smoke or have quit smoking in the past 15 years.
  • You are between the ages of 50 and 80.

Survival rates for lung cancer in men

Data based on the U.S. population from the National Cancer Institute shows the estimated percentage of people that will survive 5 years or more with lung and bronchus cancer is 22.9%. These are relative survival rates.

The data shows that earlier diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer means a better chance of surviving for 5 years or more. People diagnosed at an early stage when the lung and bronchus cancer is only in the primary site have a 5-year survival rate of 61.2%. 

A relative survival rate shows how long someone with a specific condition may live after their diagnosis compared with someone without the condition. 

For example, a 5-year relative survival rate of 70% means that 70 out of 100 people diagnosed with a condition are still living at least 5 years from the time of diagnosis.

It’s most important to remember that figures are estimates, and everyone is different. Talk with your doctor about your specific condition. 

The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2022 around 130,180 people will die from lung cancer. This includes 68,820 males and 61,360 females.

These statistics show why it is important to speak with your doctor as soon as you notice any signs or symptoms of lung cancer.

Read more about lung cancer survival rates.

Tips for coping with symptoms of lung cancer

Lung cancer can impact your life in various ways, from the physical to the emotional aspects. Your needs may also vary depending on the stage of your lung cancer and what treatment you are receiving. 

A common issue with lung cancer is breathing difficulties. If you are struggling with your breathing, these tips may help:

  • If you are a smoker, take steps to stop smoking.
  • Take part in light exercise. 
  • Raise your head above your lungs when sleeping. 
  • Use a vaporizer or humidifier to ease any mucus. 
  • Learn breathing techniques.
  • Try mindfulness and meditation to help you relax.
  • Keep the room temperature cool.

There are other ways you may be able to manage your symptoms and cope better while receiving treatment for lung cancer.  


Your doctor may recommend medications and treatments to help ease your symptoms. For example, your doctor may prescribe you inhalers, corticosteroids, or oxygen therapy to help ease your breathing difficulties.

Alternative treatments

Complementary and alternative medicines and treatments may help to ease your symptoms. Treatments include acupuncture, massage, and dietary supplements. Alternative therapies may include tailored diets, special teas, and magnet therapy. Research shows that acupressure combined with the use of essential oils helped improve symptoms of tiredness and fatigue when used every morning over a 5-month period.

Physical activity

Taking part in physical activity during the early stages of a diagnosis may reduce feelings of tiredness and improve your quality of life. 

Emotional support

Connect with others who have lung cancer and talk to your family and friends. Support from those around you can help you to cope with living with lung cancer.


SCC is more common in males than females. Certain factors place you at a higher risk of developing lung cancer. These factors include smoking, radon exposure, and a family history of the disease. 

Symptoms vary but include an ongoing cough, blood in phlegm, and shortness of breath.

The signs of lung cancer may not develop initially. It is important to speak with your doctor right away if you experience any symptoms of lung cancer.

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Medical Reviewer: Adithya Cattamanchi, M.D.
Last Review Date: 2022 Nov 29
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