Constant Clearing of the Throat With Lung Cancer: Causes and Tips for Relief | MyLungCancerTeam

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Constant Clearing of the Throat With Lung Cancer: Causes and Tips for Relief

Medically reviewed by Hailey Pash, APN-BC
Written by Sarah Winfrey
Posted on July 1, 2024

If you or someone you love is living with lung cancer, you’re likely to pay a lot of attention to symptoms. This is particularly true of anything that develops or changes over time. Regular monitoring and communication with your doctor are essential to managing the condition effectively.

Some people with lung cancer feel like they have to clear their throat repeatedly, like one MyLungCancerTeam member who explained, “I’m coughing and constantly clearing my throat.” This can make life difficult in many ways, like for one person who said, “It’s embarrassing to the point that I rarely go out in public for fear of a coughing fit.”

If this is something you or your loved one is experiencing, it’s important to understand how it can be tied to lung cancer. That way, you’ll know when to talk to your doctor and how to manage these symptoms, helping you maintain your quality of life and overall sense of well-being.

How Lung Cancer Can Cause Throat Clearing

Feeling like you have to clear your throat all the time might be connected to lung cancer in a few different ways. It can be an early warning sign that something is wrong in your lungs.

Throat Clearing and Cough

Lung cancer cough is a well-known and common symptom of lung cancer. People often expect this to be a bad, long-lasting cough, but there is no single kind of cough that’s directly associated with lung cancer. While some people have deep or hacking coughs and a few will cough up blood, others will only feel the need to clear their throat over and over. It might even feel, as it did for one MyLungCancerTeam member, “like there is something growing in my throat.”

Lung cancer can spread to your neck and airway, but this is very rare. However, needing to clear your throat can still be a sign that something is going wrong in your lungs. If you start feeling like you need to clear your throat all the time, monitor it. If that feeling lasts for more than three weeks, or if the cough gets worse, talk to your doctor right away.

Bronchorrhea

Bronchorrhea is a rare condition when people produce a relatively large amount of watery phlegm from their lungs. Some people experience this for an unknown reason, while in others, it may be caused by one of several lung conditions. These conditions include asthma, bronchitis, tuberculosis, as well as lung cancer.

If your lungs are producing a lot of phlegm, it makes sense that you might feel like you need to clear your throat a lot. If this is happening to you, you’ll likely experience other symptoms because bronchorrhea can have a major impact on how well you feel. Because bronchorrhea can cause breathlessness, shortness of breath, and respiratory failure, see your doctor as soon as possible if you think you have it.

Lung Cancer Treatments

Treatments for lung cancer can also cause damage to your throat, which could make you feel like you need to clear your throat regularly. Both radiation and chemotherapy can damage the cells and tissues in your throat. This damage can cause a variety of problems, including pain or constant irritation that makes you feel like you need to clear your throat all the time.

A few people at MyLungCancerTeam have experienced coughing, throat clearing, and other symptoms as a side effect of lung cancer treatment. One person, when discussing their treatment, said, “The radiation did a number on my throat and mouth, and I’m still dealing with it a year later. My saliva glands don’t work well, and it’s a challenge to eat and swallow.”

It’s also possible that lung cancer surgery could damage nerves, which in turn could lead to coughing or throat clearing. One member shared, “My doctors tell me my cough is from damaged nerves during my lobectomy.” (A lobectomy is surgery to remove one of the lobes, or sections, of the lung.)

Other Health Conditions

Just because you’re living with lung cancer doesn’t mean every symptom is caused by that condition. Needing to clear your throat could be caused by something unrelated to lung cancer, like:

  • Postnasal drip
  • Acid reflux
  • Nerve damage from something that’s not lung cancer
  • An involuntary tic

Managing the Feeling of Needing To Clear Your Throat

There are several things you can do to manage the feeling of needing to clear your throat. Many of these overlap with methods people use to control a cough.

Try Soothing Remedies

There are several things you can use to soothe the irritation in your throat. These include hard candies and cough drops. You may need to experiment to figure out which option works best for you.

Many people at MyLungCancerTeam have found ginger candies to be especially effective. One shared, “I also have been dealing with throat irritation and coughing. I have found that ginger helps a lot.”

Another added a specific option, saying, “Walmart has a ginger candy that helps. Very inexpensive but effective.”

Try a Throat Tea

Drinking a lot of fluid is always a good idea when you’re dealing with clearing your throat and cough suppression. It helps make your mucus thinner so it’s easier to cough up and less irritating in your throat.

Some types of fluids may help soothe your throat, too. On MyLungCancerTeam, a few people like teas designed to help the throat. One member said, “I have been drinking this throat comfort tea made by Yogi. It helps with the mucus in the throat and the coughing.”

You may need to try multiple teas before you find one that works well for you. Just because the first one doesn’t help doesn’t mean you should stop sampling them.

Add Moisture to the Air

Humidifying your air could help soothe some of the irritation in your throat. A cool-mist humidifier is one of the best ways to do this. If you choose to keep a humidifier close by, make sure you clean it regularly as mold, mildew, and bacteria can grow in moist places. Regular cleaning will mean you don’t have to breathe in impurities while adding moisture to your air.

Talk to Your Doctor if You Can’t Stop Clearing Your Throat

If you can’t stop clearing your throat and the feeling of a tickle in your throat doesn’t go away after a few days, talk to your doctor to get medical advice. If you’ve been diagnosed with lung cancer already, they may do some testing to see if the cancer has progressed, spread, or developed new characteristics.

If you haven’t been diagnosed with lung cancer before, your health care provider may order some tests, like a chest X-ray. If you’ve gone through treatment for lung cancer, your oncology team may look for damage from that treatment.

You and your doctor will need to work together as a team to understand the cause of your throat clearing. Together, you can identify the underlying issue and develop a plan to help you feel better. Having regular check-ups and talking openly with your doctor will be key to effectively managing your symptoms.

Find Your Team

On MyLungCancerTeam, the social network for people with lung cancer and their loved ones, nearly 13,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with lung cancer.

Do you find yourself clearing your throat constantly after being diagnosed with lung cancer? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

    Posted on July 1, 2024
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    Hailey Pash, APN-BC , a registered nurse and advanced practice nurse, holds a Master of Science in Nursing from the University of South Alabama. Learn more about her here.
    Sarah Winfrey is a writer at MyHealthTeam. Learn more about her here.

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