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Is a Constant Cough a Sign of Lung Cancer?

Coughing is a rapid expulsion of air from the lungs. Whether voluntary or involuntary, a cough can serve a beneficial purpose, helping to clear foreign particles, germs, microbes, irritants, fluids and mucus from the airways. With that said, a constant cough is sometimes a sign of something more serious, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or lung cancer.

Oftentimes, a constant cough will resolve on its own over the course of a few weeks. Even so, if a cough lasts beyond two months, it’s generally a good idea to discuss it with a physician, who can identify the underlying cause and suggest a treatment plan to soothe the irritation, if necessary. This is especially important for individuals who have an increased risk of lung cancer, such as current and former smokers and those with a history of exposure to secondhand smoke.

Symptoms to discuss with a physician

Additionally, a constant cough that is accompanied by any of the following symptoms warrants immediate medical attention:

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Hoarseness
  • Bloody or rust-colored mucus or phlegm
  • Recurrent respiratory infections, such as bronchitis or pneumonia
  • Unexplained weight loss

As part of the diagnostic process, a physician may order a chest X-ray, CT scan, sputum cytology and/or biopsy. It’s important to keep in mind that a constant cough usually can be attributed to something other than lung cancer, and furthermore, lung cancer does not cause coughing in every case. With all of that said, an early and accurate lung cancer diagnosis is the key to achieving the best possible outcome and quality of life.

If you have a constant cough, you are welcome to consult with a lung cancer specialist in the Thoracic Oncology Program at Moffitt Cancer Center. To request an appointment, call 1-888-663-3488 or complete our new patient registration form online. We’re pleased to offer comprehensive low-dose CT lung cancer screenings.