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Cardiopulmonary Syndromes (PDQ®): Supportive care - Patient Information [NCI] - Dyspnea and Coughing During Advanced Cancer

If the dyspnea is caused by:Then the treatment may be:
Tumor blocking the large or small airways in the chest or lungRadiation therapy.
 Hormone therapy.
 Chemotherapy, for tumors that usuallyrespondquickly to this treatment.
 Laser surgeryto remove the tumor.
 Cauterization of tumors.
Pleural effusionRemoval of the extra fluid around the lung using a needle or chestdrain.
Pericardial effusionRemoval of the extra fluid around the heart using a needle.
AscitesRemoval of the extra fluid in the abdominal cavity using a needle.
Carcinomatous lymphangitisSteroid therapy.
 Chemotherapy, for tumors that usually respond quickly to this treatment.
Superior vena cava syndromeChemotherapy, for tumors that usually respond quickly to this treatment.
 Radiation therapy.
 Surgery to place a stent in thesuperior vena cavato keep it open.
Chest infectionsAntibiotics.
 Breathing treatments.
Blood clotsAnticoagulants.
Bronchospasms or chronic obstructive pulmonary diseaseBronchodilators.
Heart failureDiuretics and other heart medicines.
AnemiaBlood transfusion

Treatment may be to control the symptoms of dyspnea.

Treatment to control the symptoms of dyspnea may include the following:

  • Oxygen therapy: Patients who cannot get enough oxygen from the air may be given extra oxygen to inhale from a tank. Devices that concentrate oxygen already in the air may also be prescribed.
  • Medicines: Opioids, such as morphine, may lessen physical and mental distress and exhaustion and the feeling that the patient cannot take enough air in. Other drugs may be used to treat dyspnea that is related to panic disorder or severe anxiety.
  • Supportive care:
    • Breathing methods, such as breathing with the lips pursed (almost closed).
    • Using a fan to blow cold air across the cheek.
    • Meditation.
    • Relaxation training.
    • Biofeedback.
    • Talk therapy to relieve anxiety.

Chronic coughing may cause dyspnea.

The causes of chronic coughing are almost the same as the causes of dyspnea. A chronic cough may cause pain, trouble sleeping, dyspnea, and fatigue.

Medicines used to control coughing include the following:

  • Cough-suppressing medicine, including opioids.
  • Medicine that breaks down mucus.
  • An inhaled drug for chronic coughing related to lung cancer.

The cause of the coughing is also treated.

This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

Last Updated: September 04, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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