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Treatments for Shortness of Breath Caused by Lung Cancer

written by: Lisa Good • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 3/12/2011

Shortness of breath is very common in cancer patients. There are a variety of lung cancer treatments for shortness of breath. This condition can usually be managed successfully by the patient's oncologist or pulmonologist.

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    Side Effects of Lung Cancer

    lungs Lung cancer can have many side effects but one of the most common side effects is shortness of breath. The shortness of breath can either be a side effect of the cancer treatment or the cancer itself. There are lung cancer treatments for shortness of breath associated with lung cancer and with guidance from a physician it can usually be managed.

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    Breathing Techniques

    There are various breathing techniques that can be taught to lung cancer patients that help them to utilize all of the lung to breathe. Most people tend to take shallow breaths that only utilize the top half of their lungs. Patients are taught techniques to utilize all or at least more of the lung to breathe allowing them to take deeper breaths and take in more oxygen.

    Patient's may be taught certain positions to breathe in or to utilize the nose for breathing. A respiratory therapist or a nurse will usually assist the patient in learning these techniques.

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    Nebulizers

    A nebulizer is a machine that delivers medication over a 15 to 20 minute period of time via a fine mist. The medication is administered through a mask that fits over the patient's mouth and nose. The treatments are usually administered by a respiratory therapist, nurse or physician but can be taught to the patient to utilize at home. The continuous vapor that is inhaled during the treatment can be a benefit to aiding with shortness of breath as well as the medication.

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    Oxygen

    Oxygen use is usually utilized in patients with long term lung cancer or advanced stages. Oxygen is usually utilized with the aide of a physician, pulmonologist or respiratory therapist. It may be used in the hospital while the patient is being treated or at home.

    Oxygen can be portable if needed for long term use by utilizing light weight tanks and carts to tote the tanks. Some of the smaller tanks can be carried in shoulder bags. Large oxygen tanks can last about five hours and smaller tanks can last about two hours without being refilled. If the oxygen use is going to be long term there are many home oxygen delivery systems which the patient can utilize for their convenience.

    Oxygen can be deadly which is why its use is limited and needs careful care. Oxygen users have to be careful to avoid any type of exposure to flames. Oxygen is a gas and its contents are under pressure.

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    Conclusion

    Shortness of breath is a very common side effect of dealing with lung cancer. There are many lung cancer treatments for shortness of breath. The treatment used will depend on the amount of shortness of breath present and the reason it is present. The patient's physician or oncologist will supervise any complications from shortness of breath and will prescribe the treatment that best fits each patient's situation.

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    References

    Web MD: http://www.webmd.com/lung/using-oxygen-at-home

    Lung Cancer Alliance: http://www.lungcanceralliance.org/facing/breathing.html

    MSEC: http://respiratory-supplies.medical-supplies-equipment-company.com/PPF/page_ID/395/article.asp

    Image source: www.publicdomainpictures.net