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Are these the symptoms?


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I am very concerned about my Wife. I first noticed a persistent cough last February, and it has been getting steadily worse since. I first noticed it during the day, but she usually coughs first thing in the morning. She is 59 years old, a 40 pack-year smoker. For the first 6 months, it was just during the day, but starting in August, she was also coughing at night. It appears to me to be a non-productive cough, as I have never seen her swallow after a coughing fit. Now the coughing fits occur every 20 min, or so during a bad day, but after a few days this will subside to once an hour or more, on a less severe day. She does regular clearing of her throat, but this is much like my own. (I believe I have sub-clinical chronic bronchitis). I have not noticed any significant shortness of breath, nor wheezing. Also she is a late onset insulin-dependant diabetic. She will absolutely not go to the doctor, as I believe she suffers from a classic neurosis regarding cancer, and death, stemming form a childhood incident regarding a step-grandmother who died of cancer in the home.

I have done a lot of reading on the net, and here are my thoughts, which I present for your comments.

1. It does not present like chronic bronchitis, since it did not appear seasonally, as a lingering cough from a cold, gradually increasing in duration until it lasted for 3 months of more in at least two successive years.

2. It did not present like emphysema, for which I read the first symptoms are usually shortness of breath, and wheezing, followed by a cough in the later stages.

3. Likewise, It does not present like asthma

4. My Son has GERD and this is also different, being a productive cough, and associated with heartburn (though I read this is not always a symptom) It seems unlikely to me that she would suddenly develop GERD at 59, but I don’t really know.

5. I guess it could be caused by post-nasal drip, but would this account for the progression in severity of her cough? She has no obvious sinusitis.

6. She has no other symptoms that might suggest congestive heart failure.

7. I thought TB as unlikely, based on local occurance, and likelihood of contact

8. I guess it could be cystic fibrosis, but I know very little about this.

9. I know there are quite a few other possibilities, such as sarcoidosis, bronchiectasis, thoracic enurism, etc, but I guess these are less likely than Cancer

10. It seems to me that the cause is most likely lung cancer. She has not complained of chest pains, and has not reported to me any hemoptsis. She has lost no noticable weight, and seems to be eating normally. She does occasionally complain of a headache in the upper neck, but this could be due to stress. I have noticed very recently a very slight change in her mental state, (momentary confusion, uncharacteristic lack of reason), but this is very slight, and could be due to stress (she recently lost her father, and our newborn grandson is blind), rather than a metastatic tumor.

I am a person for whom security is based on knowledge and understanding, and I realize I am grasping at straws, and that even doctors, relying on multiple tests, may be uncertain of the exact cause of chronic cough, and must experiment.

Is there any validity to me reasoning?



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The seriousness of a cough is not indication of its cause. Many people on this board, myself included had and have only a slight cough.

There is no way your wife can receive a diagnosis by any of us. As you know, she needs to see a Dr.

I know only too well the fear, but the fear must be faced in order to rule out the worst or to get treatment, since it is quite possible IF it is cancer it is in an early stage.

If you can't get her to a Dr., maybe you could have her come here for support. Many, many of us would be happy to offer our hands and hearts to her as she heads to the Dr.'s office and undergoes tests.

One thing you may want to know is this. My experience has been that Drs. sometimes dilly-dally around and don't order tests initially--offering instead antibiotics etc.... Make sure whatever Dr. she goes to, takes her symptoms seriously and orders at least a chest xray.

love and fortitude


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Your wife definitely needs to see a doctor. Cancer does not care whether you pay attention to it or not (if that is what it is), it will relentlessly progress. In addition, the earlier the detection, the better the prognosis and effective treatment. It is foolish to ignore -- she could pay for it with her life. I hope you can get through to her. Don

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Dont know how much help I can be, Im sure coughing can be from so many things........... But I can give you my Mom's symptoms of lung cancer, she was 58 at diagnosis.

My Mom always coughed as long as I can remember, and she always called it a 'tickle' in her throat. However it did worsen over the years and she finally started goint to the Dr. for bronchitis, etc. and they would give her antibiotics over and over, and it wouldnt help, One Dr. even told her it was viral pneumonia (x-ray showed fluid in her right lung) but of course antibiotics werent helping it, guess thats why this stupid Dr. called it a virus!! yeah right!! Anyway, to make a long story short, my Mom had started having pain in her right side (which she assumed was a cracked rib from all the coughing) at this point the x-ray did NOT show any tumors, just fluid. So they admitted her into the hospital to do a CAT scan and drain the fluid etc. Thats when they found many nodules throughout her right lung and in the entire chest wall. Plus the fluid tested had cancer cells. Now, I dont know if all lung cancer patients have the pain in their side or not, that may depend on the stage and type of lung cancer, cause some people dont get fluid in their lungs. So, to sum it up....coughing, pain, and also shortness of breathe were my Mom's symptoms of the lung cancer. And it doesnt sound like your wife is having any of that except for the cough. I say get her to the Dr. somehow!! It may be nothing and you can all not have the stress of wondering................BEst of luck, keep us posted!! Sorry if my message was long!! I get to talking and dont know when to quit!! LOL :D

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HI. I can read your concern and worry in every word. Maybe you can appeal to your wife, to go for your sake. For your own peace of mind. For the benefit of the family.

My husband was obviously not well but refused to go to the doctor for a long time. He lost his appetite, was losing weight, had a persistant back pain. No cough out of the ordinary for smokers. He got tired easily. I thought it was some kind of trouble but never even considered it was cancer. I thought cancer was something 70 and 80 year olds got. He finally agreed to go to the doctor when tylenol wouldn't control the pain. Once he went, xrays showed enlarged nodes, that began the string of tests and we got the news within 3 weeks time. We started treatment about 1 week after that and thank goodness we did or I do believe he would not be here today.

So - it was the pain that got him to the doctor. Just wait your opportunity, something will trigger her to make a move. You could even call it COPD or asthma, and who knows, it could be, get her there so she can get some appropriate medication -

Just a last thought. I know you care and are so worried but in the end, it is she who has to make the decision. All you can do is love her and support her.

Stay in touch. We care. Margaret

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Hi John.

After the diagnosis of my 36 year old brother, I chose to get a chest xray at his encouragement. It turned up looking real good.

After the diagnosis of my 42 year old brother, I had several Xrays that showed tumors, but I was either not told about it, or the radiologist missed it, or the primary doc thought I was overreacting again... five times it showed up on Xrays bigger than life, and nothing was done.

After I was finally diagnosed with lung cancer...the third sibling, only one of my remaining six siblings chose to get a chest Xray....

You can't make people do what they don't want to do. For whatever reason, as close to home as lung cancer has been in my family, they are still denying that it can happen to them.. I pray it won't.

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Your wife is a hard-headed woman. Period. Very obvious that she should go to a doctor, yet she won't...she's stubborn. If there's no diagnosis, there's nothing wrong - and if she doesn't go to the doctor, there's no diagnosis. Sounds like my mother....

Of course, it's not my mother with the lung cancer, it's me...my mother has some weirdness going on that she complains about but won't see her doctor for, doesn't want anyone to know about, etc., etc. I can't make her go and she'll beat the living daylights out of me if I fink her out to my father...

SO, I'm giving her a week, then I'm gonna tell Dad... Of course, if it's only nothing, I'll have BOTH of 'em on my butt, but I hope by then to be moved out of their house and into my own!

Push her. Make her go. Well, TRY to make her go. If it's nothing, it's nothing, yea rah! Of course, if it is SOMETHING, better to fight it sooner rather than later...because later comes just before too late and that's a BAD time to start...

Good luck!


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Hi all

Thanks for your kind words.

I did pull out all the stops in August, when she started coughing at night, and she did agree to go to the Doc, but the night before, she suffered an anxiety attack, complete with convulsions. Even holding her tight would not stop them. Unfortunately it was an anxious time, and there was some confusion when I made the appointment. Seems there were doctor's meetings that morning, and when the receptionist told me to call at 8:00 AM, all I heard was the 8:00 AM part, so that was when we showed up. She told us to come back at 11:00, but Lynne refused, and took the dog for a walk instead. We talked about it later, and she said she would rather live a shorter life in ignorance, rather than a longer one in constant fear of her impending death. There is no reasoning with her about alternatives, fear is something she is very skilled at. When she was first diagnosed diabetic, we talked about possible outcomes, and her greatest fear in this regard was blindness (books and reading are her life). She said if it came to that, she would just end it with a massive shot of insulin. If she does have cancer, I believe she will likely do the same, as soon as it becomes obvious, with pain, weight loss etc. I am fairly sure she would not submit to chemo, or radiation treatments. If I did continue to press her for diagnosis and treatment, for who's sake would I be doing it, hers, or mine? As hard as it is for me, I don't wish to condemn her to a life of terror (as she envisions it). Sometimes the most loving thing is also the hardest.

My objective in the posting was not (really) to get a diagnosis by proxy, or for guidance as to what I should do next, but to hopefully get feedback from others with regard to symptoms, and progression, to help me understand what is likely happening, so I may prepare myself. For me, strength comes through knowledge and understanding, and I am not there yet. I guess I'll get there if she starts losing appetite, weight, or gets headaches, abdominal pains. If on the other hand, she just keeps coughing for another year or so, it may likely be something else, like COPD, and we may be able to pretend nothing is wrong for some years to come.

thank you for your thoughts.


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The only cough I had started about 2 days before I finally went to the hospital, and wasn't much to write home about. The night before I went, I started having pain in my right side. I had pneumonia, which was obvious, and had the extremely good fortune to be cared for by a Pulmonologist who put together my symptoms -- pneumonia with no fever and a cough that didn't quite go along with it, very low sodium count (120).

My mother is 91 years old and has had a "tickle" in her throat for as long as I can remember, but that's just what it is -- she's in terrific health.

So, you never know about symptoms, huh.

I sincerely hope she will go to a doctor to at least try and find out what it is. I have a great deal of respect for voluntarily refusing treatment, but unless she knows what it is she's facing, how could she really make an informed decision? I do agree with others though who know that it will have to be up to her to make the decision.

I see that big hugs and support are in order. Take care, the both of you.


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I sure do wish she'd go to see what's up. I had that cough thing for a couple of years--it changed when I had radiation for breast cancer on the same side that the lung thing popped up, but that's a whole other story.

My point is that I had no other symptoms--no weight loss (are you kidding, I had just gained 10 unneeded pounds), no pain, no shortness of breath, no nothing, just a cough that always went away when cut back or quit the smokes for a couple of days.

Here's the thing though--I was a Stage 1, which is a very good thing as far as these things go. It's treatable with surgery, and dare I say, potentially curative--the doc said that himself. So, if that's the case, your wife would be so much better off now with possibly a lobectomy and chemo than what waiting might bring.

It's tough--that surgery is awful and recovery isn't any fun, but it's doable. I was back to work after surgery inside 3 weeks. Not feeling great, but I had no restrictions by then, and my instructions were to get my strength back.

Please see if she will see a doctor...


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Symptoms? I had no symptoms... just a head cold and a Dr. that insisted on a chest x-ray. I tried to talk him out of the x-ray.. had to get back to work... but he wouldn't listen to me, he must have had another voice talking to him. Anyway, I agree with everyone here, that it's her decission to make about seeing a Dr. I hope she will visit this web site and see that there is hope and a lot of support out here.

If you could get her to look at it another way... her quality of life stinks with the coughing all the time. It could be something as simple as uncontrolled asthma... I say simple but that's only in comparrisoin to the alternitive.... but it can be controlled. She needs to at least find out what she's dealing with. Asthma can kill if it's left untreated, and would be such a shame if she has asthma and gave up for "fear" of something else.

Just be supportive of her, and encouraging at the same time. It's hard when someone has the fears she has to get them to understand what we are thinking or wanting for them/us.....

My thoughts and prayers are with you and your wife....

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My Dad had no symptoms either... an "occassional" smokers cough... his cancer was found by accident through an xray at a pre-op visit for some minor surgery... He actually thought the doctors were crazy when they diagnosed him because he felt so good... no weight loss, no appetite loss, played golf 3 x's week etc.... I wish you strength in your decisions on how to handle this situation. Love, Sharon

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If your wife is diabetic and smokes she is really asking for many problems. Do you smoke also? If so, you bothe need to quit. She needs to have that cough evaluated by a doctor.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Sometimes there are no symptoms, I had a sore throat, that's all, no cough, but it was not responding to salt water gargling or any other over the counter products, my doctor ordered a chest-xray which revealed pneumonia! treated with antibiotics. Follow-up CT.Scan (I have a smart Dr.) revealed lung tumor hidden behind pneumonia scar tissue. Surgeon removed tumor & nearby lymph nodes which contained trace of cancer in one of them. This is being followed up by chemo from which I've experienced almost no unpleasant side effects, & one good one (with two pretty wigs ~ no more 'bad hair days' for me)

Your wife may prefer the bliss of ignorance, but is it blissful? certainly not for you, nor do I suspect for her, there will always be this nagging doubt she'll have to deal with on top of everything else

Informed (first hand) advice & genuine caring support is guaraneetd on this site, but as some of the prior posts stated ~ we're none of us Dr.s

An ongoing cough, or indeed any ongoing physical discomfort is not normal, it's our bodies warning us to so something. And no amount of research ~ though you've done an excellent job I must say, is going to take the place of the diagnostic tools available to the experts in this field.

If the situation were reversed & you were the one in denial what would her advice to you be?

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Hi John,

Your wife sounds like an intelligent woman. Perhaps reasoning with her will help, if you tell her that lung cancer is not a matter of simply dying and getting it over with.

If she has lung cancer, and it remains untreated, she will have pain, unrelenting fatigue, severe shortness of breath, and a host of other symptoms that the people on this board can tell you all about. If she has the diagnostic tests, and treatment is offered, she can always refuse it, but at least she will have access to symptom management. If she sees no one, she cannot get the drugs or therapies needed to control the symptoms, and that will result in worse suffering than she imagines.

That said, let me add that no one can know what is wrong unless she gets the appointment rescheduled and goes. Symptoms are remarkably non-specific for lung cancer, as well as many other ailments. I doubt our resident oncodoc would hazard a guess from what you've written about her symptoms.

Bottom line: Try your hardest to convince her that denial will not diagnose the problem or relieve her cough, and things will get worse unless she takes action. Involve your friends and family. Maybe there is someone at your church who can speak to her. Rally all your support.

Good luck to you both, Teresa

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