Shortness of breath (SOB) is a common type of mesothelioma. An individual experiences shortness of breath when the tissues located in that person’s body require more oxygen to sufficiently function. The requirement for oxygen leads to an individual experiencing the need to breathe faster which can result in anxiety.
What Shortness of Breath Means
Sometimes referred to as breathlessness or dyspnea, shortness of breath is a condition commonly found in patients who are diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma. Shortness of breath is a distressing symptom that often results in cancer’s early stages. Some of the most common ways that patients experience this condition include:
- Breathing difficulty
- Chest tightness
- Heart palpitations
- Shallow breathing
- The sensation of being suffocated
Symptoms Associated with Shortness of Breath
The various symptoms associated with shortness of breath change based on a person’s status. Some of the most common signs of shortness of breath include:
- Difficulty catching your breath
- The sensation of having to exert more energy catch your breath
- Discomfort or pain in your chest region
- Faster breathing
- A faster heartbeat
- Feelings of anxiety or panic
- Blue-looking or pale skin
- If symptoms intensify or do not go away, you should make sure to report them to your medical professional.
Diagnosis of Shortness of Breath
Your medical team will try to determine the cause of shortness of breath so they can distinguish how to best treat it. Your medical team will then attempt to determine how to best manage your condition. Your medical history will usually be assessed. This means that members of the health team will ask various things about your history including your smoking history, previous medical problems, and what treatments you are receiving. The medical team will also inquire about your breathing problems including what started and what conditions make them fworse. The team will also likely perform a physical exam to listen to your lungs.
The medical team will likely perform various testing, which can include:
- A complete blood count, which looks for infection and anemia
- X-rays of the chest might be performed to examine for pleural effusion or pneumonia
- CT scans might be conducted to look for conditions like blood clots and tumors
- Pulmonary function tests are sometimes performed to inspect the degree to which a person’s lungs are working.
- Bronchoscopy might be conducted to assess problems in a person’s airways and windpipe
- Electrocardiogram (ECG) is sometimes performed to inspect the health of a person’s heart
Shortness of Breath Is Sometimes an Early Warning Sign
Not having one’s breath is one of the most common signs of pleural mesothelioma. This condition is often the result of the accumulation of fluid around the lungs. Shortness of breath results from various conditions that are not directly related to cancer including pulmonary embolism, asthma, and heart disease.
As cancer advances and attacks the lining of a person’s lung, it restricts the degree to which the lungs can expand. Additionally, fluid collection around the lungs can result in various conditions including:
- Pleural tissue. The pleural is where the primary tumors grow and routinely thicken in people who have mesothelioma. The pleura normally permit the lungs to expand both easily and painlessly. When the pleura thicken, lung expansion becomes more challenging and can result in shortness of breath.
- Pleural effusion. A nuance involved with pleural mesothelioma is the collection of fluid between the two pleural lawyers and can also lead to shortness of breath. Effusion avoids full expansion of the lungs.
- One of the most common symptoms associated with mesothelioma, pain can result from either thickening or pleural effusion. Pain can also result from cancer treatment or tumors pushing against both tissues and organs.
- Someone’s treatment alone results in worsened mesothelioma and increased problems with shortness of breath. Surgery utilized to extract tissue from the chest cavity can lead to worsened breathing.
- Other causes. Tumors sometimes are big enough to limit both breathing and lung expansion, which can result in shortness of breath. Tissues found in a person’s chest can also stiffen as the result of pleural mesothelioma which can lead to breathing problems. Mesothelioma patients can end up facing respiratory issues including pneumonia.
- Advanced mesothelioma. Later stage mesothelioma is known to result in various problems. Many early-stage symptoms grow worse. Shortness of breath is one of the most common symptoms of advanced mesothelioma and can result in substantial pain and discomfort.
- Other types of mesothelioma. Each type of pleural mesothelioma is known to result in shortness of breath. Peritoneal mesothelioma occurs when cancer in the abdomen either enters the diaphragm or results in a fluid collection that places pressure on it. Although it is not common, unique types of mesothelioma including pericardial can form around a person’s heart. Because this mesothelioma is close to the lungs, it can result in both pressure and shortness of breath.
Rapid Breathing Can Make Your Condition Worse
Rapid breathing often makes a condition worse. Many times, rapid breathing makes a person’s condition worse. Shortness of breath can result in various conditions, but some of the most common include space in the area between the chest and lung well, tumors in the chest that push against healthy tissue, and muscle weakness.
Additionally, some underlying conditions that can result in problems include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease, emphysema, and depression. Many individuals with mesothelioma have one or multiple medical issues that impact shortness of breath.
Locating the Cause of Shortness of Breath
It’s critical to assess the extent of shortness of breath because it’s critical to decide on the cause of the shortness of breath because various treatment options might exist. If the condition is caused by fluid that has gathered in a person’s chest, the risk exists that the fluid can be drained. Some people discover that inhalers help, particularly if the individual has other medical conditions that result in the constriction of the person’s airways including COPD or asthma.
Speak with Your Pulmonologist
If you have already retained the services of a pulmonologist, you should continue visiting with them because they can be helpful. To address various pulmonary conditions. Different types of anemia exist and some require individuals to take iron pills or even receive transfusions to remedy the condition.
Anemia Can Result in Various Side Effects
Anemia causes shortness of breath and can also result in various other conditions including anxiety, headaches, and fatigue. Many people discover that correcting this situation can greatly improve a person’s sense of well-being. Additionally, some people benefit from supplemental oxygen, which is administered in a portable canister. A person who wears a portable canister can continue going outdoors and interacting with others at places like parks and restaurants.
Tips to Address Shortness of Breath
Some helpful strategies can be utilized to manage shortness of breath. Some of the most common of these techniques include:
- Utilizing relaxation strategies to relax muscles because tense muscles use a greater amount of oxygen. Other helpful objects in this strategy include mediation and using relaxation tapes.
- Take periodic rests whether you are walking or engaging in any other kind of physical activity.
- Sleeping on multiple pillows so your head is elevated above where your shoulders are located
- Notify your physician if you are encountering shortness of breath because the physician might suggest oxygen or medications to improve your breathing
- Practice continued breathing so you feel like you are receiving enough air.
- Some research has shown that if a person sits in front of a fan, it can offer a gentle breeze and ease problems with breathing. This simple technique is often one of the first strategies that people utilize.
- Respiratory professionals can teach how you to improve your breathing through control and breath retraining. Pursed-lip breathing is one method that can help a person slow down.
- Any steps that a person can take to reduce stress are advantageous. Some changes are much easier to make than others.
- Utilize a handful of fans to focus cold air across your face if you experience breathlessness at points when you are not exerting yourself.
- Make sure your medical providers know if you feel breathless. Conditions like anemia or lung infections can cause people to experience shortness of breath.
- Turn on a relaxation recording or discover ways that you can relax. This can let you take control of your anxiety and breathe easier.
- Speak to your medical provider about potential medications including low-dose morphine that you might take to manage uncomfortable feelings.
- Fall asleep in a recliner chair. By staying in a more upright position, you will have an easier time breathing.
Methods of Draining Fluid Around the Lungs
Fluid collected around the lungs can be emptied before either mesothelioma is diagnosed at the same time that biopsy occurs.
Sometimes referred to as thoracentesis or pleurocentesis, a pleural involves tapping drain fluid from a person’s lung. An individual’s physician will utilize anesthesia to numb the area and then place a needle between a person’s ribs into the pleural cavity.
Ultrasounds sometimes prove helpful in guiding the needle through the fluid. The needle is joined to a bag into which the fluid drains. This process takes between 30 to 60 minutes, which means that a person needs not to stay overnight following a pleural tap.
Ways that Fluid Around the Lungs is Controlled
To avoid fluid collecting around the lung’s linings, a person might be required to take pleurodesis, which involves closing the pleural cavity.
Talcum powder is placed into the pleural cavity and the talc slurry results in inflammation that helps combine the two layers of pleura and close the space. Talc pleurodesis is best performed during VATS by a specialized surgeon but is sometimes performed by a respiratory physician.
Following talc pleurodesis, some individuals encounter a burning sensation in the chest for a day or two. This discomfort can be reduced with medication and you will be permitted to have physiotherapy to increase your lung capacity.
VATS with Pleurectomy Decortication
After the fluid is removed and talc pleurodesis is performed during VATS, some or the entirety of the outer layer of the pleura is removed. This process is referred to as either pleurectomy decortication or PD. This might be performed when the parietal pleura, which lines the chest wall, becomes thick and inelastic.
Open Surgery (Thoracotomy) with Pleurectomy Decortication
Following VATS and talc pleurodesis, the fluid can collect around the lungs again, which can result in breathlessness. The surgeon might suggest a more intensive procedure referred to as a thoracotomy with pleurectomy decortication. This medical provider might suggest more extensive medical procedures referred to as thoracotomy with pleurectomy decortication. This surgery might also be suggested as a first option if cancer has metastasized in a manner that makes it challenging to perform VATS.
Thoracotomies help to avoid fluid collection in many cases. It also makes it easier for the lungs to widen and transfer oxygen to the blood.
Pain sometimes endures following VATs, but the improvement in symptoms might leave open surgery a valuable option if VATS has either not been successful or is not possible.
Some people are unable to have either VATS or open surgery because they are not in good enough condition or because cancer has grown in a manner that makes surgery too risky. Instead, you might be offered an indwelling pleural catheter which is also referred to as a drain to remove the fluid and improve how you can breathe. This method can also be used if pleural fluid bulbs up again follow pleurodesis.
Under local anesthesia, the specialist places a catheter through the wall of a person’s chest and into the pleural cavity. A person can manage the drain with the assistance of either a friend, a family member or a nurse. When the fluid bubbles and must be drained, the catheter’s end is connected to the bottle. In some cases involving an indwelling pleural catheter, the space between the pleura of the pleural sac of each lung, and the pleural cavity sometimes closes over time and stops producing fluid. If this happens, the drain is then removed.
Medications Prescribed for Shortness of Breath
Based on the function of a person’s lungs as well as the individual’s health, a physician might suggest certain medications that can be utilized to improve the function of lungs and reduce the symptoms that a person experiences. Some of the medications that are commonly utilized to treat difficulties with a person’s lungs include:
- Anti-anxiety medications, if a person encounters anxiety associated with shortness of breath, a healthcare provider sometimes prescribes anti-anxiety medications to help a person relax. These medications might include Ativan or Xanax. These medications must only be taken when a person is experiencing anxiety.
- If a medical provider believes that you have a lung infection, the medical provider might order antibiotic bills or intravenous medications based on the severity of an illness and a person’s overall health. Some of the most common conditions which are prescribed include antibiotics, azithromycin, and levofloxacin.
- These medications stop blood from clotting or are sometimes ordered by medical professionals if a person has a blood clot. These medications work in various ways. Based on your overall health status, a healthcare provider might suggest either enoxaparin or warfarin sodium.
- Anticholinergic agents. These medications are given to individuals with emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and chronic obstructive lung disease. Anticholinergic agents function in a nuanced manner by relaxing the muscles of the lung which make breathing easier.
- These medications work by opening passages of the lungs and relieving symptoms including breath shortness. These medications are prescribed through inhalation, but also exist in pill form.
- Beta-adrenergic receptor agonists (beta-agonists) These medications can be viewed as bronchodilators. These medications relax airway smooth muscle and prevent the release of substances that result in bronchoconstriction or lung narrowing. Drugs including albuterol or terbutaline are commonly prescribed if a person experiences lung spasms.
- Steroids function by lowering inflammation and swelling, which might exist in certain lung disorders. People sometimes gain from steroids after being inhaled in either pill form or IV.
- Beclomethasone is an inhaled steroid utilized in the treatment of chronic asthma and bronchitis. Steroids that are inhaled directly impact the lung tissues, which means that fewer long-term side effects occur, compared with either an IV or pill form. People who have an outbreak involving breath shortness and airway inflammation might be ordered a steroid pill including prednisone for a short period, which is often given as part of inhaled steroids.
- Cough medication/decongestants can help a person be more comfortable if the individual is coughing a lot. Guaifenesin is an active ingredient involved in many cough medications and might be given alone or combined with other medications like codeine to help a person’s cough. Guaifenesin can also be combined with Sudafed as a decongestant or any other type of medication.
- Diuretics are sometimes known as “water pills” and help to prevent or treat lung congestion by making a person urinate out surplus lung fluid. Some examples of the medication include furosemide and hydrochlorothiazide. A person might receive this medication alone or in addition to other medications.