Coughing up blood or hemoptysis can be an anxiety-producing experience. When someone coughs, hemoptysis occurs when blood is drawn out, possibly along with mucus. This blood may come from somewhere inside the lungs and airways. Although hemoptysis can have many causes, such as pneumonia or bronchitis, it can also be caused by lung cancer.
sometimes hemoptysis is one of the first signs that someone has lung cancer. These are also some common symptoms of lung cancer. One study reported that hemoptysis occurs in about 20% of lung cancer patients.
This article will review important facts about hemoptysis, such as when to see a healthcare provider, how to treat it, and how it affects life expectancy.
When to see a healthcare provider
The amount of blood coughed up may vary depending on the location of the bleeding. If the cancer is affecting the area of the lung near the large arteries, the bleeding can be severe and bring out a lot of blood. Anything more than a teaspoon or so of blood requires immediate medical attention.
Seek immediate medical attention, even if the blood volume is low and you have the following symptoms:
- chest pain
- shortness of breath
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Bleeding from other parts of the body
If the blood is low, there are more streaks mixed with mucus than pure blood, and it happens only occasionally, it should still be brought to the attention of your medical team quickly.
What should I know about lung cancer?
Treatment of hemoptysis depends on the amount and location of bleeding.
The first step in starting treatment is to pinpoint exactly where the bleeding is occurring. This can be done with imaging, such as a CT (computed tomography) scan, or by looking directly at the airways with a camera during bronchoscopy (using a thin tube with a light to visualize the lungs and airways). Once the source of the bleeding has been identified, some of the treatments that can be taken include:
- Surgery: Surgery may be required if the source of the bleeding is from a larger tumor. Removal of all or part of the tumor, called cytoreduction, may help treat bleeding.
- Argon Plasma Coagulation: During this procedure, the bleeding area of the lung wall is treated with argon gas and electricity to cauterize the bleeding area.
- Laser treatment: Lasers can be used to remove tumors as well as cauterize any bleeding areas during surgery.
- Radiation: Treating the bleeding area of the tumor with radiation may be an effective treatment for hemoptysis.
- Tranexamic acid: Tranexamic acid is a drug that can initiate the blood clotting process in the body. It can be inhaled through a nebulizer to treat bleeding in the lungs.
Does smoking cause cancer?
The ultimate life expectancy of lung cancer patients varies depending on the stage at which they are diagnosed. In general, the earlier lung cancer is detected, the better the chance of cure. However, hemoptysis is a marker of poor prognosis.
Severe hemoptysis can be immediately life-threatening if the bleeding does not stop. One study showed that people with hemoptysis had lower survival rates compared to people without hemoptysis. The study showed that 41% of lung cancer patients were alive with hemoptysis at 6 years, compared with 67% of those without hemoptysis.
The main types of lung cancer and the most common
Hemoptysis, or coughing up blood, is a possible symptom in people with lung cancer, but there may also be other causes. Anyone who experiences hemoptysis should be evaluated to find the source of the bleeding. If hemoptysis occurs occasionally and there is a small amount of blood, it is not as urgent as severe frequent bleeding.
Treatment for hemoptysis can vary depending on the amount of bleeding and the cause, but can include drugs, surgery, or cancer treatment.
What happens when lung cancer comes back?
Haemoptysis can be a very scary experience and should be brought to the attention of your healthcare team. If you are bleeding heavily or have chest pain or difficulty breathing, call 911 or seek emergency care right away.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you pronounce hemoptysis?
Hemoptysis is pronounced hih-MOP-tuh-sihs.
What causes your body to cough up blood?
There are many reasons for coughing up blood. This can be due to a lung infection, such as bronchitis or pneumonia, or lung cancer.