Chest infections, chest pain and coughing up blood

If you find yourself suffering from frequent chest infections, or if you ever cough up blood, or find blood in your phlegm, then you need to contact your GP immediately as these can all be symptoms of lung cancer.

Most chest infections are as a result of a cold or a cough and not caused by lung cancer. It is an infection of the lungs or the airways. Many of us will experience a chest infection in our lifetime. Chest infections can vary in severity. Some are mild and will clear up on their own after around 10 days. Others, however, can be more serious, and in some cases, life threatening.

Chest infection symptoms

Chest infections often follow a cold or the flu. You may experience a variety of symptoms which include:

  • A chesty cough – you may cough up mucus which can be green or yellow in colour
  • Breathlessness
  • Wheezing
  • Chest pain
  • A high temperature
  • Headaches
  • Achy muscles
  • Fatigue.

Many of these symptoms can also be symptoms of lung cancer so, if you are getting chest infections on a regular basis and they are not clearing up on their own or with antibiotics, or if your feel very unwell or your symptoms are getting worse, you should go, or got back to, your doctor.

You must also go to the doctor if you ever cough up any blood or spot blood in your mucus.

Ruthra Spotted the Difference

Ruthra initially put her recurring chest infections to her son bringing bugs home from nursery. However, when she then coughed up some blood, she realised something wasn’t right. Ruthra went back to her GP and asked to be referred to a respiratory specialist.

Spot the difference in your health

It can be difficult to keep track of symptoms so we have created a symptoms tracker where you can keep a note of:

  • When you first spotted your chest infection
  • How often you are coughing
  • How long the infection is lasting
  • If or when the chest infection returns
  • Any pain, or other potential symptoms.

You can then take this along to your doctor’s appointment to give them the fuller picture of your symptoms.

Under the guidelines of the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE), your GP should offer you an urgent chest x-ray if you are:

  • over 40
  • two or more symptoms including breathlessness, or
  • one symptom and have ever smoked.

Symptoms for urgent chest x-ray include:

  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Weight loss
  • Appetite loss.

If you are not offered a chest x-ray and you mean this criteria, or if you are really worried about your symptoms, don’t be afraid to ask for an x-ray, or for a second opinion.