Tracheal Cancer is the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells that primarily arise in the epidermal cells of the trachea. The trachea or windpipe is the hollow tube or airway that runs from the larynx (voice box) to the bronchi and finally connects to the lungs. While cancerous tumours arising in the tracheal (primary tracheal tumours) region and the bronchi are quite rare, some tracheal and bronchial tumours chiefly occur when malignant cells spread to that area due to other forms of cancer (secondary tracheal tumours) from other nearby organs like the larynx, pharynx, lungs etc.  Malignant tracheal tumours are more widespread in adults, whereas benign forms are most often diagnosed in children.
Tracheal Cancer

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Tracheal cancers can be chiefly classified into Benign and Malignant forms. These are:

Malignant Tumours:

  • Carcinoid tumours
  • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • Adenoid cystic carcinoma

Benign Tumors:

  • Chondromas
  • Papilloma's
  • Hemangiomas


Although the exact causative factor of Tracheal cancer is yet under research, most scientific studies demonstrate that it primarily arises when there are certain changes in the genetic code of the DNA of the tracheal cells. These mutations spur the healthy cells to grow and multiply uncontrollably without perishing on time like the healthy ones. This leads to an assemblage of tumorous cells in the tracheal region causing cancer.

Also Read: Laryngeal Cancer: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Risk Factors

Certain typical factors that aggravate the risk of Tracheal Cancer include:

Age: Tracheal cancers are more widespread in people aged 55 or above

Gender:  Men are more commonly diagnosed with Tracheal cancer than their female counterparts

Exposure To Carcinogens: Individuals who are regularly exposed to carcinogenic substances like asbestos or other toxins are more at risk of developing Tracheal cancers

Previous Cancer: Individuals who have had a personal or family history of head and neck cancer or any other form of cancer in the past have a higher incidence of Tracheal cancer

Unhealthy Lifestyle Habits: Extreme addiction towards smoking or regular intake of tobacco or alcohol increases the chances of Tracheal cancer

Dietary Habits: People who follow a diet lacking fruits, vegetables and fluids, and composed of junk, salt-cured products are more susceptible to Tracheal cancer

Viral Infection: The common HMV or Human Papillomavirus makes an individual more vulnerable to getting detected with Tracheal cancer


Although it is difficult to detect the early signs of tracheal cancer, the most common signs and symptoms that do appear include:

  • Formation of lump or swelling in the neck and throat
  • Changes in the voice
  • A sudden sore throat
  • A continuous urge to clear the throat
  • Coughing up sputum mixed with blood
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Wheezing
  • Stridor or having a high-pitched breathing
  • Difficulty in breathing and swallowing (dysphagia)
  • Pain in the ear canal
  • Pain and swelling in the neck
  • Frequent chest infections
  • Fever accompanied by chills
  • Unintended weight loss

Diagnosis And Treatment

On noticing any of the above-mentioned indications, do consult an oncologist right away to detect the type of Tracheal cancer, so that the specific treatment can be initiated right away. The doctor usually does a thorough physical checkup, collects the patient's family and personal medical history, followed by a series of diagnostics including:

  • Pulmonary function testing
  • Bronchoscopy
  • Biopsy
  • Imaging procedures like X-ray, CT-scan, MRI-scan, PET-scan, and Barium swallow

Staging Tracheal Cancer

In order to conduct a specific treatment, the doctor usually stages cancer into the following types:

Stage 0: The tumour arises only on the top layer of cells of the affected part of the trachea

Stage 1: In this stage, the tumour measures less than 2 cm and it is narrowed to the part of its origin

Stage 2: The size of the tumour in this stage, ranges between 2 - 4 cm and may have metastasized into the nearby tissues

Stage 3: Stage 3 depicts tumours that are larger than 4 cm and have spread to other nearby structures in the throat or have spread to one lymph node

Stage 4: An advanced stage where the tumour has spread to the lymph nodes or other distant organs in the body


After appropriately staging the Tracheal Cancer, and acknowledging the size, location of the tumour and condition of the patient, the team of doctors usually settle upon the best possible way to deal with the tumour to let the patient a better lifestyle. The available treatment options for treating Tracheal Cancer include:

  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Surgery
  • Targeted drug therapy
  • Rehabilitation
  • Palliative care


Certain lifestyle changes diminish the chances of developing Tracheal cancer or its recurrence. These preventive measures include:

  • Quitting smoking and avoiding second-hand smoke altogether
  • Reducing intake of alcohol
  • Removing any asbestos deposits both, from work and home,
  • Limiting exposure to carcinogenic substances or wearing a protective covering when in proximity
  • Eating a wholesome and balanced diet, comprising fresh fruits, vegetables and juices
  • Exercising regularly to prevent obesity