ZocdocAnswersCan coughing be a symptom of lung cancer?

Question

Can coughing be a symptom of lung cancer?

My father is a lifelong smoker so naturally I worry about his health. For about a year, he has had a cough that won't quit - could that be a symptom of lung cancer? I try to get him to go to the doctor, but he won't go because he thinks they'll scold him for smoking.

Answer

Smoking causes damage to the lungs, predisposing to several different medical conditions. Any chronic cough in a smoker must be evaluated as soon as possible to determine the underlying cause. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a common consequence of long term smoking and is caused by degeneration of the lung tissue or plugging of airways by thick mucus. This commonly results in thick sputum, cough, and shortness of breath. Lung cancer is another cause of chronic cough, especially if accompanied by blood in the sputum or weight loss. However sometimes the only symptom of the cancer can be the cough. Finally, those who smoke chronically are at a higher risk of many infections of the lung, including fungal infections, tuberculosis, and pneumonia. As always the diagnosis and the management of your father's particular concerns will require a physical examination by his personal physician. Setting up an office visit with his primary care doctor is very strongly recommended.

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