Does coughing and phlegm mean my mother's lung cancer has returned?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
Jannette13 asked...

My Mother was told in October that all the lung cancer that had mestasized was all gone except one small spot on her lung. She has started coughing and spitting phlegm. And has headaches alot. Could this mean her cancer is growing back?

Expert Answers

Andrew Putnam, M.D. is a Palliative Care physician at Smilow Cancer Center at Yale New Haven Hospital and Yale University.

It is important to remember that while coughing and lung cancer are related, a cough can be caused by other possibilities. A cancer patient can catch a viral or bacterial infection (both of which can also cause headaches) as easily, or even more easily, than a person without cancer. People with cancer can develop ordinary illnesses as well. If a person with lung cancer develops a cough with phlegm, it is important to tell the oncologist but it could be ordinary or it could be cancer.