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What is Sputum?

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Updated June 09, 2014

Definition:

Sputum is a mucousy substance (consisting of cells and other matter) that is secreted into the airways of the respiratory tract. Sputum is not the same as saliva, a substance secreted in the mouth to help with digestion.

If a lung cancer is present near the airways, the sputum of the patient sometimes contains cancer cells. To test for lung cancer, physicians may order a test called sputum cytology. A patient coughs up sputum, the sample is collected and then examined in a lab for the presence of cancer cells.

Some conditions that result in increased production of sputum include:

Also Known As: phlegm

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