What are the symptoms of tracheal diseases?

Possible symptoms vary depending on the type of tracheal disease.

Tracheal and bronchial tumors may cause:

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Coughing, sometimes with blood (known as hemoptysis)
  • Wheezing
  • Stridor, a high-pitched sound as the breath is drawn in, caused by a blockage in the airways

Squamous cell carcinoma can cause ulcers and bleeding in the trachea.

Noncancerous tracheal and bronchial tumors have symptoms similar to those of cancerous tumors.

Tracheal stenosis symptoms can include:

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Coughing, sometimes with blood (known as hemoptysis)
  • Wheezing
  • Stridor, a high-pitched sound as the breath is drawn in, caused by a blockage in the airway
  • Frequent or recurrent respiratory infections

Tracheobronchomalacia symptoms most commonly include:

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty clearing phlegm
  • Repeated respiratory infections, such as pneumonia or bronchitis

How are tracheal diseases diagnosed?

Tracheal and bronchial diseases can be difficult to diagnose, as symptoms progress slowly over time and can be mistaken for asthma, bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other conditions.

If you have symptoms such as shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, coughing, or wheezing, our doctors will perform a comprehensive evaluation, including a review of your medical history and a physical examination.

Tests used to diagnosis and stabilize your airway may include:

  • Three-dimensional (3D) chest computed tomography (CT or CAT) scan - This technique provides a three-dimensional view of the airway and can help determine the cause and extent of tracheal diseases.
  • Laryngoscopy - A flexible, narrow tube (endoscope) with a tiny camera on the tip is inserted through the nose to examine the larynx and the upper portion of the airway. This can typically be performed in the doctor’s office under topical anesthesia.
  • Bronchoscopy - A rigid or flexible tube with a tiny camera on the tip (called a bronchoscope) is inserted through the nose or mouth into the airway to examine the trachea and bronchi.
  • Biopsy - To confirm the diagnosis, a sample of tracheal or bronchial tissue is removed through a bronchoscope for examination by a pathologist.

Tests to measure your respiratory function can include:

  • A pulmonary function test. This test measures how much air you can inhale and exhale. You will take a deep breath and exhale as hard as you can into a mouthpiece that is attached to a machine. The test is used to assess lung function, and can help your doctor determine the location of airway blockages.
  • Six-minute walk test. For this test, you will walk back and forth on a hard, flat surface as quickly and as far as possible for six minutes. Your heart rate and oxygen level will be monitored. The test is used to measure endurance.

Your doctor will use the results of these tests and your medical history to make an accurate diagnosis and select the most effective treatments for your tracheal disease.

Patient Support Services

Patient Support Services

Designed for Healing, Wellness and Recovery

Taking care of the whole patient is an important component of providing personalized cancer care. Integrated into the fabric of the Miami Cancer Institute, the Cancer Patient Support Center addresses the psychological, physical, social and spiritual needs of our patients during cancer treatment and beyond.

Have questions? We're here to help.