What are the types of tracheal diseases?

There are many types of tracheal diseases, both cancerous and noncancerous.

Tracheal and bronchial tumors

Tumors that arise in the trachea and bronchi are rare. The vast majority of tracheal and bronchial tumors in adults are cancerous.

Some types of cancerous tracheal and bronchial tumors are:
  • Squamous cell carcinoma. This is the most common type of tracheal tumor. It is fast-growing cancer and usually develops in the lower portion of the trachea. Squamous cell carcinoma often penetrates the wall of the airway as it grows, which can cause ulcers and bleeding in the trachea.
  • Adenoid cystic carcinoma. These slow-growing tumors eventually close off the airway if untreated, but are less likely to penetrate the wall of the trachea.
  • Carcinoid tumors. These slow-growing tumors are more likely to develop in the bronchi than the trachea. They arise from neuroendocrine cells, which produce hormones such as serotonin. Carcinoid tumors can occur at any age, but are most common between the ages of 40 and 60.

Some types of noncancerous tracheal and bronchial tumors include:

  • Papilloma. The most common type of benign tracheal tumor in children, papillomas are cauliflower-like tumors thought to be caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). These tumors can also transform into squamous cell carcinoma. Papillomatosis refers to multiple papilloma tumors.
  • Chondromas. These firm nodules form from cartilage. Though rare, chondromas can occur in the larynx (voice box) or trachea, and most commonly affect middle-aged men.
  • Hemangiomas: This type of benign tracheal tumor involves an abnormal buildup of blood vessels in the trachea.
Tracheal stenosis

Tracheal stenosis is a narrowing or constriction of the trachea.


Tracheobronchomalacia occurs when the airways collapse during breathing or coughing. Some people are born with a very rare form of tracheobronchomalacia called tracheobronchomegaly (also known as giant trachea or Mounier-Kuhn syndrome). People with this condition have an abnormally wide or dilated trachea and bronchi and often have respiratory infections.

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