Tracheal - windpipe cancer

The trachea (windpipe) is the tube that connects your mouth and nose to your lungs. It goes on to divide into the two airways (the right bronchus and the left bronchus, together called bronchi), which supply air to each lung.

Cancer of the trachea is rare and only makes up about 0.1% (1 in 1,000) of all cancers. The most common types of tracheal cancer are squamous cell carcinoma and adenoid cystic carcinoma. Squamous cell cancers start in the cells that line different parts of the body, such as the airways, the mouth and the gullet. Adenoid cystic cancers are rarer and develop from glandular tissue. They can develop in different parts of the body but more commonly in the head and neck area.

Symptoms of tracheal cancer

The most common symptoms of tracheal cancer are:

  • a dry cough
  • breathlessness
  • a hoarse voice
  • difficulty in swallowing
  • fevers, chills and chest infections that keep coming back
  • coughing up blood
  • wheezing or noisy breathing.

These symptoms are common in conditions other than cancer. However, it is important to tell your doctor if you have any of these symptoms.

At The Christie, the lung cancer team in clinical oncology may treat cancer of the trachea.

Last updated: March 2023