Bronchial adenoma may remain undiagnosed for years because of the small size of the tumor and the slow growth pattern. This condition masquerades as bronchial asthma, chronic bronchitis, or bronchiectasis (localized irreversible expansion of part of the bronchial tree resulting in airflow obstruction and impaired clearance of secretions).
Symptoms of bronchial adenoma depend on whether the tumor is located centrally or peripherally in the airways. Persons with central lesions have symptoms of obstruction and bleeding, which include the following:
Dyspnea (difficulty breathing) is caused by partial obstruction of the windpipe or large bronchi.
Stridor (abnormal sound produced by turbulent flow of air through a narrowed part of the larger airways) can be present when the adenoma is in the windpipe or large bronchi.
Wheezing (high-pitched whistling sound produced by the flow of air through narrowed smaller airways) is heard if the obstructed air passages are further out in the large bronchi.
Cough, fever, and sputum production result from complete obstruction of the bronchi, leading to collapse, infection, and destruction of the lung tissue on the other side of the obstruction.
Coughing up blood results from ulceration of the lining of the airway overlying the tumor and is fairly common in bronchial adenoma. Coughing up blood is a danger sign and nearly always indicative of a serious disease, whether bronchial adenoma or another lung condition.
Persons with peripheral lesions are more commonly asymptomatic (that is, they do not have any symptoms). The peripheral lesions most often appear as solitary pulmonary nodules on chest x-ray films. Because these individuals are asymptomatic, the findings are typically found on chest x-ray films taken for other reasons.