Coughing up blood from your respiratory tract is referred to as hemoptysis. It can occur at any stage of lung cancer but can also happen for other reasons.

Coughing up blood is not generally associated with any particular stage of lung cancer over another, according to the American Cancer Society.

It is not a reliable indicator of life expectancy for someone with lung cancer.

However, most symptoms of lung cancer appear when the disease has already reached an advanced stage.

In 2020, the American Lung Association noted that 23% of people with lung cancer receive a diagnosis in the early stage, when the 5-year survival rate is 59%, although early diagnosis rates are rising in the United States.

Meanwhile, 47% of people with lung cancer receive a diagnosis in a late stage, when the 5-year survival rate is 6%.

Figures from 2013–2019 suggested that the chance of living another 5 years with any type of lung cancer and a diagnosis at any stage was 25.4% on average.

However, the outlook will depend on a range of factors, including age and the type of lung cancer a person has, as some are more aggressive than others.

Your oncologist can provide a more accurate assessment of your situation, although life expectancy estimation is not an exact science.

Bleeding from the lungs is a common complication of lung cancer.

It can happen at any stage and can range from a few bright red spots or blood-tinged sputum to severe bleeding that can be fatal.

One factor a doctor will consider when assessing the severity of bleeding is the amount of blood produced.

There is no standard way to categorize the amounts or to decide what is most serious, but one example may be as follows:

mildfewer than 30 milliliters (mL) with sputum, or fewer than 2 teaspoons
moderate30–100 mL or 2–3.5 teaspoons
severe 100–600 mL or around 2.5 cups
massivemore than 600 mL or 2.5 cups

If you produce more than 2 teaspoons of blood, you should seek urgent medical help. However, doctors typically only consider massive bleeding — also called a pulmonary hemorrhage — to be immediately life threatening.

Cancer can have many effects on the body, so it is not possible to predict the stage of cancer by how much blood a person produces. For example, the location of a tumor and whether it has damaged a blood vessel may affect how likely a person is to bleed from the lungs.

Symptoms don’t always appear in the early stage of lung cancer, but the following are often the first ones people notice:

  • blood in sputum or rust-colored phlegm
  • a persistent cough
  • chest pain that worsens with breathing or coughing
  • shortness of breath and wheezing
  • weakness and fatigue
  • recurrent infections
  • loss of appetite and weight

Coughing up blood can also be a sign of metastatic cancer or cancer that has spread from another part of the body to the lungs.

Cancers that commonly metastasize to the lungs include:

  • bladder cancer
  • bone cancer
  • breast cancer
  • colorectal cancer
  • kidney cancer
  • prostate cancer
  • testicular cancer

Metastatic cancer reaching distant parts of the body from where it started is always a later stage cancer. The life expectancy is lower than for early stage cancer, but treatment can still be effective in some cases.

Coughing up blood does not always mean that you have lung cancer.

Other possible causes include:

  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • chronic bronchitis
  • bronchiectasis
  • cystic fibrosis
  • esophageal cancer
  • granulomatosis with polyangiitis
  • lung abscess
  • mitral valve stenosis
  • parasitic infection
  • pneumonia
  • pulmonary embolism
  • tuberculosis

While these conditions are associated with coughing up blood, your doctor will perform a diagnosis to pinpoint the cause and suggest an appropriate treatment plan.

Unexplained coughing up blood is always a cause for concern and a reason to contact your doctor.

You should seek medical advice as soon as possible if you:

  • cough up more than a few teaspoons of blood
  • have other symptoms, especially dizziness, weakness, chest pain, or trouble breathing
  • have blood in your urine or stool

What stage of lung cancer do you cough up blood?

You can cough up blood at any stage of lung cancer, and the severity does not necessarily match the stage. Only diagnostic tests can show what stage the cancer has reached.

What are the signs of end stage lung cancer?

Stage 4 lung cancer is when cancer has spread from the lungs to other parts of the body. Symptoms include bone pain, jaundice or yellowing of the eyes, swollen lymph nodes, dizziness, and so on, depending on where the cancer has spread.

What color blood do you cough up with lung cancer?

You may notice bright red blood or pink, streaked, or rust-colored phlegm.

Coughing up blood from your respiratory tract (hemoptysis) is a common symptom of lung cancer.

It’s not generally associated with any particular stage of lung cancer and does not estimate life expectancy with lung cancer.

Seek medical advice if you’re coughing up blood. Early treatment is more likely to be effective whether it is due to lung cancer or another condition.