Lung cancer symptoms: Is your cough a sign of the deadly disease, coronavirus or flu?

Lung cancer symptoms: Is your cough a sign of the deadly disease, coronavirus or flu?


Lung cancer occurs when a mutation in the DNA causes cells to reproduce at an uncontrollable rate. When a cancerous tumour forms, a nasty cough may surface. But is your cough really indicating lung cancer, or is it a cold, or could it be a symptom of coronavirus?

Coughing up phlegm with specks of blood is a concerning scenario.

This is one tell-tale symptom most commonly attributed to lung cancer.

Medically known as haemoptysis, your GP surgery needs to be alerted to this symptom straight away.


  • Lung cancer symptoms: Look out for this sign when you cough

This is to figure out if something sinister is going on.

The common cold, on the other hand, may produce green mucus if it’s severe enough to turn into a chest infection.

This is because your immune system sends white blood cells, called neutrophils, to the area of infection.

These cells contain a greenish-coloured enzyme and so a large number of them can discolour your mucus.

A common cold doesn’t usually result in coughing up blood.

Amesh Adalja, MD, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security points out that the common cold is a form of coronavirus.

Coronaviruses – given their name due to their resemblance to a crown under a microscope – are, in fact, extremely common causes of colds and other upper respiratory infections.

The new coronavirus (COVID-19), however, is a new strain that is currently spreading like wildfire across the world.

One of the symptoms of COVID-19 is a dry cough – which is very similar to the common cold.

A laboratory test is the only definitive way to confirm a case of COVID-19.

The cough from a common cold and coronavirus are both likely to be dry coughs, and are basically impossible to tell apart.

William Schaffner, MD, an infectious disease specialist and professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine said: “Both the flu and coronavirus produces a [usually] dry cough.


  • Lung cancer symptoms: How long have you had your cough? Warning sign

“If two patients stand in front of me — one with a mild case of coronavirus and one with the flu — and tell me their symptoms, I can’t tell them apart. For that, we need to test.”

Sometimes, lung cancer symptoms don’t include coughing up blood.

At times, symptoms of lung cancer can include having a cough most of the time.

This type of cough can be either wet (producing phlegm) or dry.

As a dry cough could be a symptom of lung cancer, it’s useful to be aware of other symptoms of the deadly disease.

Cancer Research UK lists symptoms of lung cancer as the following:

  • Having a change in a cough you have had for a long time – it may sound different or be painful when you cough
  • Getting out of breath doing the things you used to do without a problem
  • Having an ache or pain in the chest or shoulder
  • Chest infections that keep coming back or a chest infection that doesn’t get better
  • Losing your appetite
  • Feeling tired all the time (fatigue)
  • Losing weight

Akin to coronavirus, lung cancer can only be determined by tests.

If you’re concerned about your cough, contact NHS 111 to discuss.

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