Hoarseness is a less-known symptom of lung cancer. It is often caused by an irritation or injury to the vocal cords. In most instances, the problem will go away on its own after a short period. However, if you are experiencing longer episodes of hoarseness, you should contact your GP practice.

Symptoms of hoarseness

If you are experiencing hoarseness, you will spot a difference in your voice. It may sound:

  • Raspy
  • Husky
  • Strained
  • Breathy
  • Weak
  • Inconsistent
  • Tired.

You may also notice you are speaking in a higher or lower pitch than normal. This often makes it difficult to talk.

There are many different causes for hoarseness, including:

  • Swelling of the voice box. This is often caused by a respiratory tract infection
  • Acid reflux. This is where stomach acid or enzymes irritate the throat
  • A build up of soft tissue on the vocal cords. This is often related to smoking
  • Paralysed vocal cords. This can be due to infection or a benign or malignant tumour.

Andrew Spotted the Difference

Working as a music teacher and singing in a band, Andrew soon spotted a change in his voice and went straight to the doctor. A respiratory specialist found that one of his vocal cords was paralysed because a tumour was pressing on the nerve. Andrew went on to be diagnosed with stage 2 lung cancer, had surgery and follow chemotherapy and is now back playing his saxophone.

Spot the difference in your health

It can be difficult to keep track of symptoms so we have created a symptoms tracker where you can keep a note of:

  • When you first spotted your voice was hoarse
  • How often you are experiencing hoarseness
  • Any other potential symptoms.

You can then take this along to your doctor’s appointment to give them the fuller picture of your symptoms.

Under the guidelines of the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE), your GP should offer you an urgent chest x-ray if you are:

  • over 40
  • two or more symptoms including breathlessness, or
  • one symptom and have ever smoked.

Symptoms for urgent chest x-ray include:

  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Weight loss
  • Appetite loss.

If you are not offered a chest x-ray and you mean this criteria, or if you are really worried about your symptoms, don’t be afraid to ask for an x-ray, or for a second opinion.